The World’s Oldest Edible Ham Is a 116-Year-Old National Treasure

Gone are the days of people owning regular pets such as dogs, cats, maybe a fish or two, or even a ferret if you’re into that. For Pembroke D. Gwaltney Jr. his idea of a pet is slightly different from what most people tend to get. Gwaltney has made a 116-year-old ham, which is reportedly the oldest ham in the world, his pork “pet ham”.

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Yes, the ham, cured in 1902 by the Gwaltney Food meat company, was his personal pet. He even decided to put a brass collar on it and paraded it around various expeditions to prove to customers his meat could actually be kept without being refrigerated. Um, I don’t know what to say about that. Is that even sanitary?

Is it true you can eat the ham?

Surprisingly, despite it being the world’s oldest ham, this is actually true! According to, ham experts (because at the end of the day, they are ham experts), the dry curing process used to create the ham involves salting the meat and draining the blood, which actually allows for longer shelf life and a richer flavor. Microbiologists, or ham experts, say that the ham is technically still edible if one wanted to eat it.

However, it isn’t a delicacy anybody would enjoy munching on, as the taste and sensory experience of the cured ham may not appeal most palates. I feel like this is common sense, but you know, I’ll just let you decide on that. As for the appearance of the ham? Well, the ham has garnered comparison to dried leather and an expired human leg. So pretty, so fresh.

World's Oldest Ham
Atlas Obscura

Where is it located?

Smithfield, Virginia is well-known across the United States for its cured hams. Smithfield Foods, a large pork producer, is headquartered in Smithfield and is the company of which Gwaltney Foods is an antecedent. The ham is housed in the Isle of Wight County Museum, which is also the home to the world’s oldest peanut. It occupies a climate-controlled display glass case with two other legs, I mean “famous hams.”

One of those has is the largest ham in the world, so the gang’s all there. A nonstop live-streamed “ham cam” is watching over the hams 24/7. The ham also has a Twitter account to please the fans. Because who doesn’t have a twitter nowadays? Happy 116th birthday!

This post was originally published on August 7, 2018.

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