Parmigiano Reggiano vacca bianca modenese is a rare visitor outside Italy, while the “same” cheese from vacche rosse is more common, and that is a good thing. It is available, more expensive and better. If that means consumers are buying it is another thing, perhaps most think Parmesan is Parmesan.
What’s so special with Parmigiano Reggiano Vacca Bianca Modenese?
Well, it’s one of the original breeds giving rather small amounts of milk, but good milk well suited for cheese making. The vacca bianca originates as a cross breed from vacche rosse which is a much older breed and the other original “supplier” of milk for Parmigiano Reggiano.
Basically there were three factors making the vacca bianca modenes favourable. In this context the milk of course, but also from a meat perspective, renowned for its quality. Finally the breed used to be a very good “workhorse”. Where we earlier used horses and today tractors, the cow did the job. And we can still experience this in countries less mechanised that our western world.
However, with a Parmigiano Reggiano world market emerging, the demand for more milk grew, as did the need for more efficient milking. Vacce bianca modenese is not well suited for mechanical milking. While there were about 230 000 beasts during the 50’s it had fallen to a mere 800 at the start of the new millennium. That’s dramatic. Not that many more today, it must be admitted, but at least the development goes in the right direction. It takes a while to restructure a whole breed in a good way.
The Rosola dairy in Zocca
The Rosola dairy in Zocca in the Modena province, an hours drive from Bologna, was the first dairy to transition to making Parmigiano Reggiano from vacca bianca modenese milk. Since then it seems like three other dairies have joined the movement. A vey limited production.
Is Vacca Bianca Modenese a very old breed?
No, it is not. As said above it originates from vacche rosse. The cheese is much older. Remember though, the Parmigiano Reggiano hjas not always been world famous like today. Originally it was very much an Italian household cheese for everyday use like some other varieties. Is there an Italian recipe without grated hard cheese of some sort? Then the Italian emigration started, and the Italians want thing just like home, so they missed their cheese. And from there a world market emerged demanding larges production units, being it milk production or cheese making.
That’s where the Holsteins come in. It is not very well customised for the assignment, though. The milk is not well suited for cheese making, the breed does not thrive under the Italian climatic conditions with a very short life span. Have not heard anything about the meat quality, but that does not have to be negative.
Three or four dairies?
I believed there were four, but it seems like it is only three dairies making cheese from vacca bianca modenese milk and as it is, they’re all in the Modena province. The last two mentioned below have joined the Slow Food presidium to save the breed.
Consorzio Valorizzazione Prodotti Razza Bianca Modenese i Valpadana Serramazzoni, Modena
Caseificio Rosola i Zocca, Modena
Caseificio Santa Rita i Serramazzoni, Modena