You may have noticed some cheeses bear markings on their rind. These are not ornamental, but rather information that can give you confidence you are buying an authentic product. Understanding these markings will help you determine the type of cheese you are buying or eating.
Cheeses imported from Italy, as well as some cheeses produced domestically, have markings on the outside of the wheel, on the rind. These marks, which are applied by the producer to identify the cheese and verify its quality and authenticity, generally fall into three categories: marks of origin, certification marks and dietary designations.
Marks of Origin
Certain imprinted text and images on wheels of cheese certify that a product was authentically produced and processed in a specified geographical area.
The rind of a wheel of Pecorino Romano has the words Pecorino Romano imprinted on it in a repeating pin dot pattern, along with a sheep’s head icon that is housed in a pin dot formed diamond.The cooperative’s trademark seal is also impressed on every wheel of cheese, along with the stamp identifying the name of the individual producer. For more information about Pecorino Romano visit www.pecorinoromano.com.
DOP Logo: Italy
AOP Logo: France
Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
Certification marks are given to designate age and quality. These marks are found on the outer packaging of the cheese items or branded on the rind of the wheel.
For Parmigiano Reggiano, the certification mark is only applied to wheels that pass inspection. This mark is fire-branded onto the wheel as an oval containing the words “Parmigiano Reggiano Consorzio Tutela” and includes the year of production. During the certification branding, the wheels are divided into the following categories, which are indicated by both marks on the rind and on product packaging.
Only cut and wrap facilities located in Italy that have signed an agreement with the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano are authorized to apply the distinctive black “Wheel and Wedge” certification mark to the packaging of the Parmigiano Reggiano that they cut into wedges, shred, shave or cube. For more information about Parmigiano Reggiano certification marks, visit www.parmigianoreggiano.com or www.parmesan.com.
These wheels of cheese are true to the appearance, texture and flavor of Parmigiano Reggiano and are suitable for being aged 24 months or more.
Parmigiano Reggiano Extra or Export
Upon the producer’s request, 18-month wheels can be inspected again for an additional certification. If the wheel fulfills the high standards necessary, then the mark EXTRA or EXPORT is branded on the rind of the wheel guaranteeing its superior quality. “Extra” is slowly replacing the “Export” mark. Until “Export” is phased out, both exist in the market and mean exactly the same thing.
Parmigiano Reggiano Mezzano
These wheels of cheese are meant to be eaten young, soon after the certification branding at 12 months. These wheels are marked with parallel lines that are scored into the rind around the entire circumference of the wheel.
Grana Padano wheels have a specific quality mark stamped on the rind only after the wheel of cheese has passed rigid quality standards. This quality mark is a large lozenge with the words GRANA PADANO written horizontally through its center. There is also a large “G” in the top half and a large “P” in the bottom half of the lozenge.
Grana Padano also has three different markings that connote how long it has been aged.
A yellow diamond displaying the words GRANA PADANO is used for a wheel that has been aged between 9 and 16 months.
A yellow diamond displaying the words GRANA PADANO and a yellow bar below it with the words “OLTRE 16 MESI” is used for a wheel that has been left to age in the maturing cellars for over 16 months.
A black and yellow circle displaying the words “OLTRE 20 RISERVA MESI” is used for a wheel that has been aged at least 20 months in the production zone and has developed specific qualities.
Many cheeses have also been approved for use in food preparation and are designated as “fit and proper” to eat. Examples include the kosher seal, which affirms the cheese has been made according to strict kosher food standards and Halal seal, which indicates that a product is able to be lawfully eaten and used by Muslims.
This seal certifies that products have been made according to strict kosher food standards. The “circle U” stands for the Orthodox Union and the “D” signifies that the item contains dairy products. To learn more about the Kosher markings, visit www.oukosher.org.
The Halal seal, the “crescent M” symbol, of the Islamic Food and Nutritional Council of America certifies that products are appropriate for consumption by Halal consumers. To learn more about Halal markings, visit www.ifanca.org.