Isn’t Parmigiano Reggiano exactly that, or Parmesan if you like? Well, there is Mozzarella di Bufala and then there is Mozzarella from cow’s milk. The original is from Buffalo’s milk. And the same applies to Parmigiano Reggiano. Well, any Parmigiano Reggiano is made from cow’s milk, but as this cheese has become increasingly popular around the world, the need for more milk has exploded and with that the introduction of a high yielding cow. Hence the Holstein making most of the milk for today’s Parmigiano Reggiano. But it’s not the original, that’s the red, white and brown cows respectively. They yield less milk, but milk that is more suited for cheese making. Then there is this thing about sticking to what’s original. Some don’t bother, other’s think that’s important. I belong to the latter.
I do not know how much more milk a Holstein makes a day compared to the originals, but I assume the difference is considerable. And that difference probably means money – and money talks. If you think breed is breed, milk is milk, feeding is feeding, pasture is pasture and even dairy is dairy, well then I thing you are wrong. That’s why the breed thing is so important. It’s about history, culture and not least keeping to the original.
Parmigiano Reggiano of milk from solely brown cows
The brown cow, or Bruna Italiana is an old cow when it comes to making Parmigiano Reggiano. Probably not one of the originals but it has an ideal protein/fat ratio for cheese making. The Bruna Italiana is originally a Brown Swiss that was long ago brought across the alps to the plains of the Po river and has over time become Bruna Italiana as it is known by now – in Italy.
Bruna Italiana is not an extinction threatened breed
Unlike Vacche Rosse and Bianca Modenese where they keep working to rebuild herds, the brown cow is quite widespread most of all because of the cheese making qualities of the milk. Why then is Bruna Italiana so special? Because as I just said of the qualities of the milk and because they are not all that many using this breed for making Parmigiano Reggiano.
Some cheesemakers use some milk, often in blends with other breeds, but the farm Valserena use solely Bruna Italiana (or Vacca Bruna if you like) and have done so since the farm was founded back i 1879. They had a plan and imported the animals from Switzerland. Since then they have worked steadily with farming, cheese making, breeding and not least establish Parmigiano Reggiano with milk from brown cow as a quality brand. Which was crowned in 2005 when the Disolabruna® Consortium was etablished. With the PDO together they represent both protection and recognition.
Valserena – the farm
A farm housing 260 milking cows in addition to calves and pigs. The milk from these 260 milking cows is enough to make 14 cheeses every day. They also grow wheat, corn and sugar beets. The pigs are fed on whey and corn.