Digging into Ham’s Chinese Roots

Ham is a delicious and popular meat that has a long and interesting history. It is derived from the hind legs of a hog and has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years. The origins of ham can be traced back to ancient China, where the practice of curing pork legs began around 4900 B.C.

The word “ham” itself comes from the Old English word “hamm,” which specifically refers to the cut of meat from the hog’s hind legs. However, it’s important to note that while all ham is pork, not all pork is ham. Ham is a specific cut of pork meat from the thighs of a pig, and it is typically cured and salted before being consumed.

The ancient Romans played a significant role in spreading the enthusiasm for ham throughout Europe. It is believed that they learned about the practice of curing pork legs from the Chinese during their trading activities. The Romans, known for their culinary prowess, quickly embraced the deliciousness of ham and introduced it to various parts of Europe.

When it comes to the different types of ham, the back leg of the hog is where we get fresh or smoked ham. Fresh hams can be roasted or ground to make sausage. Smoked hams, on the other hand, offer a unique flavor profile that is loved by many. Smoked hams can be further categorized into boneless or bone-in options, depending on personal preference.

In addition to the traditional whole hams, ham can also be cut into smoked ham steaks. These steaks are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, adding a distinctive smoky flavor.

Hams are widely available in a ready-to-eat form, making them a convenient choice for many. They can be enjoyed on their own, sliced and added to sandwiches, or used as a flavorful ingredient in various recipes.

Ham has a rich history that dates back to ancient China and has spread throughout Europe thanks to the Romans. It is a specific cut of pork from the hog’s hind legs, usually cured and salted. Whether enjoyed fresh or smoked, ham offers a delicious and versatile option for meat lovers. So the next time you indulge in a savory ham dish, take a moment to appreciate the long journey it has taken to reach your plate.

Where Is Ham Originally From?

Ham is originally from China, where it is believed to have been cured for the first time around 4900 B.C. The Chinese are credited with this early method of preserving and flavoring pork leg. The tradition of curing ham then spread to ancient Europe, particularly through the influence of the Romans. It is likely that the Romans learned about this practice while trading with the Chinese. The word “ham” itself comes from the Old English word “hamm” and specifically refers to a cut of meat from the hind legs of a hog.

ham 1693735156

Is Ham Only From Pig?

Ham is exclusively derived from pigs. It is a specific type of meat that is obtained from the pig’s hind leg or thigh. This particular cut of pork is often cured and salted to enhance its flavor and prolong its shelf life. Ham can be found in various forms such as smoked, roasted, or boiled, and it is commonly consumed as a ready-to-eat meat product. However, it is important to note that not all pork can be considered as ham. Pork refers to the meat from pigs in general, and it encompasses various cuts like shoulder, loin, belly, and ribs, among others. Ham, on the other hand, specifically refers to the hind leg portion of the pig. So, while all ham is pork, not all pork is ham.

What Part Of Pig Does Ham Come From?

Ham comes from the back leg of a pig. This specific cut of meat is known for its delicious flavor and versatility in cooking. There are two main types of ham: fresh and smoked.

Fresh ham is typically roasted or used for making sausages. It can be ground up and seasoned to create flavorful sausages or cooked whole for a mouthwatering roast.

Smoked ham, on the other hand, is a popular choice for many people. It can be prepared boneless or bone-in, depending on personal preference. Smoked ham can also be sliced into thick or thin pieces, or even cut into ham steaks.

Ham is derived from the back leg of a pig and can be enjoyed in various forms and cooking methods, such as roasting, smoking, or grinding for sausages.


Ham is a delectable and versatile meat that has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Its origins can be traced back to ancient China, where the art of curing pork legs first began. Since then, ham has spread throughout Europe and become a staple in many cuisines. The term “ham” specifically refers to the hind leg of a pig, which is cured and salted to enhance its flavor and preserve it for longer periods. Whether it is fresh or smoked, boneless or bone-in, ham offers a range of options for cooking and enjoying. From roasting to grinding for sausage or slicing into steaks, ham provides a delicious and satisfying addition to any meal. So whether you’re a fan of the traditional ham sandwich or looking to explore new culinary creations, ham is a timeless and delightful choice.

Photo of author

William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with H-O-M-E.org, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.