Parmigiano Reggiano is produced exclusively in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the Reno river, and Mantua to the right of the Po river: this is the area hosting the farms where the cattle are fed on locally grown forage. The feeding of cattle complies with the norms of a strict specification that bans the use of silage, fermented feeds and animal flour.
This is the most common breed among Parmigiano Reggiano producers. Imported from Holland, it is known as Friesian because the original stock is found in the Dutch region of Friesland. The first cattle were brought to Italy at the end of the 19th century. In the 20th century, cattle from Italian breeding farms were introduced and the breed, now acclimated, became known for to its high productivity thus becoming the most widespread milk-producing breed in Italy and in the Parmigiano Reggiano area of origin.
This is a triple-attitude breed, as in the past it provided considerable help in the fields as well as in the production of milk and meat. It derives from golden-coated cattle, similar to the Reggio Red cow, cross-bred with grey cattle of the Podolic group. Its milk is particularly suitable for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano and for cheese making, thanks to the optimum ratio between fat and protein percentages, and to the high content of K-casein, that favours a fast and more lasting milk curdling. It is a Slow Food presidium.
The introduction of the brown breed in the Parma area dates back to the mid-18th century, even though 16th and 17th century documents already mention cattle with a brown coat. These were probably of Swiss origin and brought over from Lombardy. These cows proved valuable because they were rural and meek, suited to work in the fields. Over the years, the brown breed became known for its production of milk, whose rheological characteristics make it highly suitable for cheese-making thanks to its high casein and fat content.
Red Reggiana Cow
Until just after the Second World War, there were cows with a reddish coat in the traditional barns of courtyard farms. These served a triple purpose. The breed dates back to the year 1000, probably in Pannonia, today’s Hungary. Its milk is rich in protein - in particular casein - calcium, and phosphorous, and it has optimal cheese making characteristics: the right amount of cream rises to the surface, the milk clots quickly, the curd is firm and elastic and the dairy yield is high. The Reggiana Breed Association has established that 24 months is the minimum maturation time for this cheese.