Parmigiano-Reggiano, often considered the ‘king of cheeses’, traces its roots back to the Middle Ages in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions. This grand cheese, made from raw cow’s milk, symbolizes a unique blend of history, artistry, and meticulous craftsmanship that spans over eight centuries. To safeguard Parmigiano Reggiano’s authenticity, specific regulations and standards have been put in place. These guidelines play a vital role in preserving the reputation, quality, and integrity of this renowned cheese.
The Significance of Regulations and Standards
The aspect that sets Parmigiano Reggiano apart is its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status awarded by the European Union. The PDO recognises the unique relationship between the product and its region of origin in terms of quality, method of production, and raw materials used, where unique climatic or geographic conditions contribute to its distinctiveness. Such a designation ensures that only cheeses produced in designated environments and complying with set standards can carry the prestigious Parmigiano Reggiano label.
Pillars of Standards: Raw Ingredients
As per the designated standards, Parmigiano Reggiano is produced using partially skimmed raw cow’s milk from the two daily milkings. The milk must come from cows reared in the designated PDO areas, grazing on fresh fodder or hay from the same regions. The use of additives, preservatives, or silage is strictly prohibited, reinforcing the commitment to natural production methods.
The stipulation extends to the methods of production, requiring traditional copper vats for curdling, and cheese wheels to be aged naturally on wooden shelves. In an era where mechanization frequently trumps tradition, Parmigiano Reggiano’s preservation of age-old techniques evidences the importance of respecting cultural heritage and maintaining a product’s authenticity.
Quality Monitoring and Control
To ensure adherence to these rules, a consortium, Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano, was established in 1934. It tasks itself with promoting the cheese, protecting its PDO status, and conducting quality checks. Every wheel of cheese must pass strict inspections after a 12-month maturation period. Successful cheeses are fire-branded with the official Parmigiano Reggiano mark, a testament to their adherence to the established PDO standards.
Benefits of the Standards and Regulations
These regulations and standards not only protect Parmigiano Reggiano’s quality but also its economic value. Producers investing time and effort in following the traditional methods can yield dividends through the recognition and premium prices this cheese commands across the world. Furthermore, it discourages unfair competition and the sale of counterfeit products that fail to respect the traditional process.
Importantly, these standards also protect consumers. The PDO status guarantees purchasers of Parmigiano Reggiano that they are buying cheese that is authentic, natural, and of highest quality.
Maintaining the integrity of Parmigiano Reggiano goes beyond preserving a cheese; it is about upholding a rich history, a cultural heritage, and a standard of quality that is recognised worldwide. The regulations and standards in place perform an indispensable role in protecting and promoting this iconic product, cementing its standing as a true treasure of Italian gastronomy.