AN OXFORD butcher went to market yesterday and bought a cured shoulder of ham for pounds 990. His appetite was whetted by its age: at 101 years old, it is the world's oldest ham, writes Dalya Alberge.
Although he paid three times its estimated price, Michael Feller, 47, who runs a meat and bacon shop in Oxford, said that he had been prepared to bid up to pounds 5,000. 'There's nothing else like it,' he said.
The underbidder at the Christie's auction in London was Borax Consolidated. If the group had succeeded in buying the ham it would have been quite an advertisement since it still manufactures the borax with which the meat was preserved a century ago.
Mr Feller acknowledged that the 12-inch-long blackened meat was not particularly beautiful - indeed, he described it as 'rather yukky'.
Although a number of artists have displayed lumps of meat as works of art, Mr Feller expects his purchase to provide a lively talking-point hanging in his shop window.
Contrary to Christie's opinion, Mr Feller believes that his purchase is edible. However, he is not planning to have a taste. 'You'd have to eat into it to be safe,' he said.
The shoulder of ham was imported in 1892 from Chicago in the United States and kept as a curiosity in a butcher's shop in Leeds.
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