Protecting European Cheese Heritage

Europe is known for its museums, history, and great food! Some of the most popular cheeses have come out of Europe, and they pride themselves on that because it ain’t easy being that cheesy. 

In efforts to protect the history and authenticity of certain food products, the European Union (EU) has created a system to protect them. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), or Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) are geographical indicators set by the EU and the UK.

Cheese is one of many food items that are protected geographical status, meaning they have to come from a certain area to be considered genuine. For example, Parmigiano Reggiano has to be made in Parma, Italy. Think of it like champagne, which must come from the Champagne area in France. Santé!

Other countries have agreements with the EU to produce certain items. Like Parmigiano Reggiano can still be produced in places like North America, but it has to be called Parmesan. So the next time the waiter asks you if you’d like Parmigiano, ask where it’s from!

Here are some of the grate cheeses that are protected by the EU!

Feta cheese in olive oilFeta

Area: Greece

Designation: PDO

Feta is produced using sheep milk or a blend of sheep and goat milk, with a maximum of 30% goat milk. There are agreements about the use and make of feta in other countries. In Canada, feta cheese has to be labeled with type, kind, style, and imitation, when produced in Canada. Feta that was in production before 2013 was grandfathered in, so they don’t have to use other terms. 

Asiago cheeseAsiago

Area: Veneto and Trentino, Italy

Designation: PDO

The area where cheese is produced is known as the Asiago plateau, which has a strict area where the cheese can be produced. The area starts from the meadows of the Po Valley and finishes in the Alpine pastures between the Asiago plateau and the Trentino's highlands. Asiago can be made with milk from farms also more than 2,000 feet above sea level, which grants the cheese an additional Product of the Mountains label. 

Gouda cheese slice Gouda

Area: Netherlands

Designation: PDO and PGI

Gouda isn’t protected by the EU, Boerenkaas, Noord-Hollandse Gouda, and Gouda Holland are. The term gouda is the term for a style of cheese, not a specific type. That’s why the other gouda-style cheeses can be protected.  

Slice of Beaufort cheeseBeaufort

Area: Savoie region of the French Alps, France

Designation: PDO

Beaufort was originally designed with an appellation d'origine contrôlée (French version of PDO) in 1968. The milk that the cheese uses comes from the Tarine or Abondance cows that graze in the French Alps. The cheese uses 11 litres of milk for every 1 kilogram of cheese.