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May 22, 2012

Parmesan Cheese Industry Hurt By Earthquake in Italy

Parmesan Cheese Wheels Crashed
During 20 May 2012 Earthquake
in northern Italy
Photo: Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cheese Consortium

The 6.0 earthquake that hit northern Italy on 20 May 2012 also hit the parmesan cheese industry hard. The region north of Bologna is known for its parmesan cheese making expertise. Parmesan cheese must be aged 12 to 24 months. When the earthquake hit, approximatley 300,000 large Parmesan cheese wheels that were in storage near the epicenter crashed to the ground. Each parmesan cheese wheel weighs approximately 40 kilos and are 40 cm in diameter. They are stored by stacking 22 wheels on top of each other (with room for ventilation) on shelves that measures 10 meters high. . 

This region of northern Italy sells an estimated €2bn (£1.6bn) annually. According to the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium approximately 50% of its annual production may have lost in the earthquake. The reason is that any cheese wheels that have been broken will be susceptible to mold.

Parmesan cheese is a valuable commodity in northern Italy. So much so that they are used as bank collateral on loans and often have insurance policies on them. Individual cheese wheels that are fully matured to 24 months may be valued as high as €420.

Producers of Grana Padano, a cheese similar to parmesan suffered similar losses due to the earthquake.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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