This communication assesses the use of a portable near infrared (NIR) instrument to measure quantitative (fatty acid profile) properties and qualitative (‘Premium’ and ‘Non-premium’) categories of individual Iberian pork carcasses at the slaughterhouse. Acorn-fed Iberian pigs have more unsaturated fats than pigs fed conventional compound feed. Recent advances in miniaturisation have led to a number of handheld NIR devices being developed, allowing processing decisions to be made earlier, significantly reducing time and costs. The most common methods used for assessing quality and authenticity of Iberian hams are analysis of the fatty acid composition of subcutaneous fat using gas chromatography and DNA analysis. In this study, NIR calibrations for fatty acids and classification as premium or non-premium ham, based on carcass fat measured in situ, were developed using a portable NIR spectrometer. The accuracy of the quantitative equations was evaluated through the standard error of cross validation or standard error of prediction of 0.84 for palmitic acid (C16:0), 0.94 for stearic acid (C18:0), 1.47 for oleic acid (C18:1) and 0.58 for linoleic acid (C18:2). Qualitative calibrations provided acceptable results, with up to 98% of samples (n = 234) correctly classified with probabilities ⩾0.9. Results indicated a portable NIR instrument has the potential to be used to measure quality and authenticity of Iberian pork carcasses.