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The History

In the countryside around the Po, about the year 1000, starvation raged and the livestock was nothing like it is today. Nothing produced on the land or from cattle farming could be wasted.

The monks who drained the marshes posed the problem of what to do with the milk that was not consumed within the day. It had to be turned into cheese, but fresh cheese would deteriorate.  So a hard cheese was created by maturing and the idea proved to be a big success.

The production of grana cheese in the Po Valley is generally thought to have begun in 1135 in the abbey of Chiaravalle. We know that it was produced in many monasteries using special cauldrons. This is how the first cheese factories were established and the first dairy producers and experts in the production of cheese developed the trade. The monks called it caseus vetus, old cheese.

But the cheese consumers of the period were unfamiliar with Latin and instead called it by another name inspired by its unusual granular consistency. This is how it acquired the name formaggio di grana (grana cheese) or simply grana, and was distinguished according to the province of production. The most commonly cited granas are from the area of Lodi, considered by many to be the oldest, but also from the areas of Milan, Parma, Piacenza and Mantua.

This product soon came to be considered precious and its popularity spread. In 1504, Isabella d’Este gave to her father and her brother Ferdinando, lords of Ferrara “half a cheese each, because the goodness of it is more important than the quantity”.

The cheese often came from the countryside on the banks of the Mincio River, where cattle grazed on  “knee-high fat clover” , and was sought after to such an extent that in 1525, the Gonzaga’s farm overseer found it hard to obtain “eight pieces of good three-year-old cheese” these having been promised to the king of Spain.

In the next three centuries, there were no major technical innovations. It was only after 1837, according to studies carried out by Luigi Cattaneo, that the first cheese factories saw the light while, following the unity of Italy, milk production improved, meadows began to be sown and the first scientific institutes were established.

But things changed on the cheese production front in 1951. In Stresa on 1st June that year, European technicians and dairy-farm workers signed an “Agreement” whereby they established precise rules for naming the cheese and determining its characteristics. It was on this occasion that “Grana Lodigiano” cheese was created, later to become “Grana Padano” and “Parmigiano-Reggiano”.

However, it was not until 10 April 1954 that Italy established protective standards for the designation of origin and kind of cheese, including Grana Padano. On June 18, 1954, on an initiative taken by Federlatte (Federation of Dairy Co-operatives) and Assolatte (Dairy Farming Industry Association), the Consorzio per la tutela del Formaggio Grana Padano (Consortium for the protection of Grana Padano Cheese)  was created, bringing together all the cheese producers, curers and retailers.

On 30 October 1955 the Presidential Decree no. 1269 on the “Recognition of denominations relating to processing, commodity characteristics and cheese production areas” was issued, which included Grana Padano.

But it was only following the ministerial decrees of 1957 that the Consorzio di Tutela del Grana Padano was appointed to monitor the production and marketing of the cheese.

    

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