The European Union uses “protected names” that highlight regional and traditional foods whose authenticity (process) and geographical origin can be guaranteed. Protected foods includes wine, beers, ciders, spirits, cheese, olive oil, vinegar to name a few.
There is not one company that makes Parmigiano Reggiano, Procuitto de Parma, Champagne or Roquefort. The regions and territories these products come from have consortiums of producers that meet, taste, compare, maintain and ensure the quality, taste, texture and geographic source of these products that have protected designations.
A protected designation guarantees the product has been produced in a place , and with a specific process that consistently has the quality, taste and texture it has had for hundreds, or in sometimes thousands of years.
The highest quality and most sophisticated French food products are certified by the label “AOC”. First created in the 15th century, this French label stands for “Appellation d’Origine Côntrolée”, which means controlled label of origin. For example, in the case of cheese, This guarantees that the milk is from a fixed geographical area, along with the cheese’s production and maturity. It insures the traditional method of production, storage, humidity and aging the cheese is strictly adhered to. Representatives from the label inspect the cheese and its production in order to ensure that it follows these guidelines. Famous French cheeses that are designated AOC include the first and most famous, Roquefort, muenster and Camembert. Champagne sparkling wine produced under AOC rules is probably the most famous of AOC designations.
DOP, in English PDO, stands for Protected Designation of Origin and is awarded to products of excellence that express a close tie to the territory of origin. The PDO recognizes agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area recognizing specific and often ancient production methods.
The Italians have their own way of guaranteeing that their food products such as cheese and traditional balsamic vinegar is of the highest quality. Foods awarded the DOP are most special. DOP stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta”, which means Protected Designation of Origin. Similar to the AOC, the DOP guarantees that the milk of the cheese and production of grapes for vinegar are restricted to specific geographic locations in Italy. Also, the Denominazione di Origine Protetta insure the methods of production must be traditional, and have fixed storage guidelines to ensure that the foods age correctly. It is mark of optimal quality and high standards. There are consortiums of producers that meet and taste products regularly to maintain the highest quality among the several producers
Here are the AOC regulations for Roqeufort Cheese:
- All milk used must be delivered at least 20 days after lambing has taken place.
- The sheep must be on pasture, whenever possible, in an area including most of Aveyron and parts of neighboring départements. At least 3⁄4 of any grain or fodder fed must come from the area.
- The milk must be whole, raw (not heated above 34 °C (93 °F), and unfiltered except to remove macroscopic particles.
- The addition of rennet must occur within 48 hours of milking.
- The Penicillium roqueforti used in the production must be produced in France from the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
- The salting process must be performed using dry salt.
- The whole process of maturation, cutting, packaging and refrigeration of the cheese must take place in the commune of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.
“Wagyu”: “Wa”=Japanese “Gyu”=Cow
The specific breed, Tajima-Gyu raised to strict standard in the geographic prefecture of Hyogo. Breeders take extraordinary care utilizing special feeds and sometimes feed the cattle beer and saki. Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature and is better tasting and healthier than other beef. The marbling is white, the beef is redder.
“WaShuGyu” = Japanese (“Shu”=”Seed”) Cow / American Wagyu
One of four specific Japanese cow breeds are cross bred with American Angus. They are fed a special diet. Cuts from these cattle typically exceed the quality of other Prime steaks.
Kobe = a specific type of Wagyu.
All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe. Kobe beef is considered the most abundantly marbled in the world which yields the creamiest, most flavorful steaks. To be labelled Kobe, cattle must meet the following standards:
- Bullock (steer) or virgin cow.
- Tajima-Gyu born within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Fed on a farm within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Meat processed within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Marbling rating (BMS) of 6 or higher on a 12 point scale.
- Meat quality rating of 4 or higher on a 5 point scale.
- An overall weight not exceeding 470 kg.
Only 3000 cattle qualify as Kobe per year.
Certifications that act like but are Not protected names:
There are other certifications that are NOT protected names but offer the consumer protections and guarantees. I refer to them as “Trusted Names”
Certified Organic means something.
“New York State Permitted Raw Milk” ensures Raw Milk meets certain standards and follows specific processes