Northern Italy was struck by an Earthquake a few weeks ago, with the unfortunate deaths of 17 people. A culinary casualty of the 5.8 quake is the country’s Parmesan cheese industry. About 10% of the Parmesan stock was destroyed.
What you need to know:
At $2.5 Billion in annual revenues, parmesan is a big business. Only 30% is exported, the rest is voraciously consumed in Italy. Each “wheel” has a market value of $520.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is the Italian name for this cheese, and according to Italian law, only cheese manufactured in the vicinity of Parma in northern Italy may be called by this name. The cheese needs to be manufactured in a specific manner and aged at least 12 to 24 months. European law classifies the name Parmigiano-Reggiano as a protected designation of origin. In the US there are no trademark protections, so the parmesan cheese you are buying at an average supermarket is most likely NOT the real McCoy.
From a nutrition perspective, a one ounce “serving” of parmesan cheese has about 100 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat. The biggest issue with this cheese type is its high sodium content – 350 mg, which is 15% of the recommended daily maximum.
This is a typical ingredient list for parmesan cheese, nice and simple:
CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES. AGED OVER 10 MONTHS.
Back to the earthquake. Although many small manufacturers have lost much of their inventory, there is no shortage forecast. Apparently there is ample manufacturing capability both in Parma and worldwide.
What to do at the supermarket:
If you can find a nice little block of imported Parmesan cheese, try it. Enjoy the cheese almost as a spice, grating a small amount over pasta sauce, into salads, and over popcorn. Because Parmesan is so salty, you can do with much less salt from the shaker.