Munchery has exciting news for our cheese-loving friends! We’re featuring the big cheese on our menu: 100% Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP. We always use 100% Parmigiano-Reggiano in our various pasta dishes and more, and now we’re offering one-pound blocks to Munchery members exclusively at half the retail price. Enjoy its sharp, nutty flavor grated over your home-cooked pasta and salads, or savor it alone in bite-sized nibbles.
As part our mission to bring you real food – comprising real ingredients, with real nutrition, made by real chefs – we’re highlighting an important issue of which some of you may not be aware: most of the parmesan sold in the U.S. is fake.
If you don’t know what the stink is all about, stay with us. Things are about to get real.
Who Cut the Cheese?
Examine a package of 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, and you may be surprised to see that Parmesan cheese is one ingredient alongside two not-so-cheesy ingredients: cellulose (a wood pulp) and potassium sorbate (a preservative).
The most worrisome of these two additives is cellulose, a wood-pulp product that prevents grated cheese from clumping. Although small levels of cellulose have been deemed safe to consume, private studies have found that some of the biggest Parmesan cheese producers in the U.S. cut their cheese with much more cellulose than they let on. This filler dilutes the protein levels promoted on the cheese’s packaging, resulting in a product that is significantly less pure—and less healthy—than advertised.
The King of Cheese is Born
To truly appreciate real Parmigiano-Reggiano is to know its history. The origin of Parmigiano-Reggiano can be traced to the 13th Century and the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy. The cheese-making tradition, practiced by Benedictine monks, involved a rigorous process – starting with the dairy derived from the strictly-monitored, high-quality diet of Friesian cows, to the Mediterranean sea salt used in bathing the cheese for nearly a month, to the special aging rooms where each wheel of cheese slumbers for 12 months or more.
Today, this carefully-nurtured tradition endures among cheese-makers in Italy. Parmigiano-Reggiano’s ancient lineage and purity of ingredients is the reason why it’s often referred to as the “King of Cheeses.”
The Soiled Royal
Like Champagne, which can only be labeled as such if it comes from the Champagne region of France, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a protected designation of origin under European Law. Only cheese made in the provincial birthplace of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Bologna, Modena, Mantua, and of course, Parma and Reggio Emilia) can be labelled as “Parmesan.”
Unfortunately, this law is not observed in the United States. Big brands like Kraft and Walmart falsely tout inferior products as “100% Parmesan,” misleading an estimated 67% of U.S. consumers.
That beloved Parmesan that Americans sprinkle atop spaghetti, shake on pizza, and shave over caesar salads? It’s most likely a medley of additives – not 100% pure Parmesan.
The Protectors of Pure Parmesan
There’s a movement to bring back pure 100% Parmesan, and it’s gaining ground here in the U.S.
The Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium—founded in Italy in 1934 to codify the the production of true Parmigiano-Reggiano—is increasing efforts to spread global awareness about imposters of Parmesan. The regulatory organization, which investigates fraudulent claims of Parmesan, has invested in a program on the education, promotion, and distribution of real 100% Parmigiano-Reggiano in Canada and the U.S. The Consortium’s intrepid surveillance is resulting in the recall and withdrawal of fake Parmesan products.
Still, plenty of fake Parmesan pervades the U.S. market. But consortium president Nicola Bertinelli remains hopeful that real cheese will increasingly find its way to tables across America: “We are convinced we have found a new great ally in retailers, which have every interest in promoting those products of controlled origin.”
Tips to Identify Real Parmesan
In our experience of sourcing for real Parmigiano-Reggiano and encountering plenty of imposter Parmesan, Munchery has collected a few learnings that will help you identify the real cheese:
- Mind the Rind — A surefire to identify a king is by his crown. If the rind doesn’t bear the Consortium seal, it isn’t real.
- Wheel with Seal — The Consortium seal is easiest to see on Parmigiano-Reggiano wheels and wedges. If you buy grated parmesan, you’re taking a risk, since you can’t check the rind.
- Reputation of Station — Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t widely available in the U.S. (yet), and the real deal tends to be expensive. Your best bet is buying from reputable speciality food shops.
Join #TheRealCheese Movement
Here at Munchery, we fiercely pursue the highest quality products by expert farmers and craftsmen committed to taste, sustainability, and quality. Real food is at the center of everything we make, even when it comes to something as small as the topping on your pasta. Join the movement to keep it #therealcheese: say goodbye to fake Parmesan and give real Parmigiano-Reggiano a place on your table.