Happy Birthday to the World’s Oldest Ham

Pet ham

P.D. Gwaltney Jr with his pet ham.

What is believed to be the world’s oldest ham has turned 112 years old, although experts are debating whether the dry-cured meat is actually edible or not.

The two foot long ham was first cured by the Gwaltney meat company in 1902 and promptly forgotten about at the back of a storage room.  It was rediscovered some years later and donated to the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia, where it still resides in a glass case to protect it from further decay and bacteria.

The meat has taken on the visual appearance of old leather and while it is arguably edible, it certainly won’t taste good.  “You could probably still eat the darn thing,” says Henrietta Gwaltney, granddaughter of P.D. Gwaltney Jr., original curer of the ham, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Amazingly, P.D. Gwaltney Jr. used to call the ham his ‘pet’ and tied a collar and leash to it for use in promotional images.

“The oldest edible ham I have heard of is eight years old,” says Jose Pizarro, owner of Pizarro Spanish restaurant in London, when speaking to BBC News. “After that the fat starts to oxidize and the flavor disappears from the meat. A rancid taste develops as the yellow fat diffuses, and as the decades pass it will become as hard as a stone and incredibly ugly.”


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