The king of cheeses
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese landscape, the production area includes the provinces of Parma, Reggio, and Modena. As well as a stretch of the province of Bologna, and the area to the south of the Po river in the province of Mantua. Worth a note, a book of eight pages makes the difference of this product. However, on the left bank of the Po, in the lowland of Lombardy region, the cornfields extend for miles, but on the right bank, in Emilia, they become rare and less extended. As a result, we are between the Arda river estuary and the Reno stream, in the north of Italy.
Regulation of the cattle feeding
In fact, in their place, there are fields of medicinal herbs and, above all, meadows of spontaneous and local herbs. Like clover and vetch, as well as oat grass like the poa, the darnel, and the festuca. Above all, the merit is of those eight pages that in the jargon we call it the green booklet. It’s the Regulation for the cattle feeding, published by the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese consortium.
Cattle customized nutrition
The cows that produce the milk at the origin of this product must, in fact, observe a customized nutrition very different from that of their sisters who populate the cowsheds on the Lombard side and give the milk with which, for example, they make the Grana Padano cheese. A rule of their strict nutrition is that they cannot eat fermented corn, which is the basis of cattle feeding on the other side of the Po. Here they can use the corn only in very small quantities and in the form of freshly cut maize. For this reason, it disappears from the landscape.
The Food Valley
The district of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese landscape extends from the banks of the Po to the 2000 meters of the ridge of the Tuscan Emilian Apennines. As a result, a special section of a region known as the Food Valley of Italy. In fact, the Emilia Romagna region gains authority in the world with the ancient flavors of cheeses, cold cuts, and other delicacies. Furthermore, here we find actually half a dozen main valleys, parallel as the teeth of a comb that mountain spines, known as gullies, separate them. Further up, monotonous but reassuring, we have woods of chestnut trees, oak trees, and mixed forests. Which even higher they give space to the beech trees.
The survival of the cowsheds
Today, we see a preservation of the features of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese landscape. Hence this situation has left important signs on the human landscape, the features founded eight centuries ago in the convents of the Cistercian and Benedictine monks. In fact, the possibility to sell the milk at a price far higher than the normal yield has allowed the survival of thousands of family-owned cowsheds. Otherwise destined to disappear due to the high running costs. It has contributed also to the preservation of many small centers of the high hills and the mountains.
The cattle breeds
Of course, even in Emilia Romagna, we saw the depopulation of areas where they practiced a marginal agriculture. But the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has contained the phenomenon. Worth a note, here the native cattle breeds were two: the “Bianca Modenese”, nowadays almost disappeared, and the “Reggiana”, with fawn color, that some small nucleus remained. Today, the most important breed is the Italian Frisona with a black and white color, as well the “Bruna” with grey color.
The Red coming from the East
The “Rossa Reggiana” (Red from Reggio) is a cattle breed of an ancient lineage. It seems that it came in Italy in the 6th century, from the great plains of Eastern Europe, with the Lombards. As a result, It was common until the fifties in the triangle Piacenza-Parma-Reggio. Then, within a few years, the rustic Rossa Reggiana practically disappeared. In fact, in 1981, in the province of Reggio, they were just 985. Today, however, the “Red” is slowly returning to life, above all for its milk that has particularly high fat and protein values, in particular for the casein, characteristics that make it the starting point for high-quality cheeses. According to its fans, they make it the ideal milk to have the “true” Parmigiano Reggiano.