Ai dios mio, este jamón sabe como bellota; urk.
June 15, 2012 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Nut allergies, acorns, acorn eating pigs, and acorn-eating-pig prosciutto. You are not my doctor, or my charcuterist.

Lovely SO is allergic to tree nuts, especially walnuts.

The acorn is the nut of an oak tree. We're not about to eat acorns, but (theoretically) would she be allergic to an acorn?

THEN, depending on your answer, put on your pig hats. (Er, maybe take them off; they look ridiculous.)

A local tapas restaurant has phenomenal Jamón Ibérico, "a cured ham from the legendary, acorn-fed black-footed pigs of Spain." I've had it, and it's great. A friend of ours has said (possibly based on a waiter's puffery) that you can taste the acorns from their diet. I couldn't, but I'm no supertaster. It was delicious, though.

If someone with a tree nut allergy would be allergic to acorns, would they be allergic to meat of an animal that had a diet almost exclusively of acorns? What if that meat is cured and served as ham?

You're not her doctor or allergist (and she always has an epipen in case), but if you could point us to resources that could confirm (one way or another) how the relevant allergens survive after consumption/cooking/curing (or not, which seems likely), it would be great.

That ham was really good.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
it really depends on the level of allergies, I think. I know people with soy allergies that l felt so much better once they switched to eggs from chickens not fed any soy.
posted by Neekee at 8:13 AM on June 15, 2012

As far as I'm aware, the proteins that cause allergies to nuts won't be found in the flesh of the animal. They get broken down into amino acids by the digestive system, then 'rebuilt' into specific proteins required by the pig.
posted by pipeski at 8:20 AM on June 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

You know how you can't get poison ivy from the liquid in poison ivy blisters because that liquid is produced by your body, not a poison ivy plant, and therefore does not contain urushiol? This seems like that. I'd be very surprised to learn that whole nut proteins are present in the flesh of pigs who eat acorns. (I'm not a microbiologist or allergist, though.)
posted by OmieWise at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2012

I am not an allergist. My husband is VERY allergic to tree nuts also and has never had a problem eating any meat, including high-end prosciutto.
posted by workerant at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2012

The allergens and the stuff that makes it taste like acorns are probably completely different molecules, so it could taste like acorns and still not be allergenic. Conversely, you could probably produce an unaromatic acorn flour that *didn't* taste like acorns but was still allergenic.

There don't appear to be any case studies of this happening in PubMed, which I would definitely expect to find - the title just writes itself! "Novel occurrence of anaphylaxis following ingestion of acorn-fed pork." (Side note: while searching I learned that there is something called "Pork-cat syndrome.")

Also: ordinary pigs eat all kinds of things, including nuts. I've never heard of anyone having, say, a peanut allergy attack because they ate a pig that ate peanuts.
posted by mskyle at 8:43 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a ppt (in Google view mode) that lays out the digestion of protein and how rarely whole proteins get absorbed.
posted by OmieWise at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2012

I am pretty seriously allergic to wheat (just got test results back today and it seems to be getting worse!) but I am not allergic to grain-fed meat or poultry.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2012

I'm like 99% sure that "you can taste the acorns in this Jamon Iberico" is bullshit. Does the ham probably taste better than other ham? Does it possibly taste like the best ham in the world? Maybe.

Besides which, the chances that you, the waiter, or your friend who said this have ever actually tasted acorns before is pretty much 0.

This is just pretentious wankery and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction in your SO.
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2012

I am also anaphylactic when it comes to nuts, and I have no problem with cured meats etc.

However I DON'T eat many roasts because I am less certain about what's in the stuffing and that would be far easier to cross-contaminate.
posted by wingless_angel at 12:23 PM on June 15, 2012

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