What is the acronym DOP

mean and why does it matter?


You will see the DOP acronym feature on every wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano – and if you are confused about what that mean you are not alone. DOP is a significant legal designation issued by the European Union and stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” (in Italian). In the US it is translated to “Protected Designation of Origin” or PDO. In this article you will learn what PDO means and why it is important if you care about authenticity.

Three letters that represent important traditions

The PDO designation represents a legal guarantee that the cheese was made by trained artisans in the area of origin, using only local ingredients and traditional age-old methods.

The PDO designation is used for a variety of food products, including balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salami, prosciutto and others. However, Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most important products that has been bestowed this honor.

In the US the PDO logo is sometimes featured on individually-wrapped slices of Parmigiano Reggiano.

PDO certification is a guarantee of artisanal tradition

The PDO certification for Parmigiano Reggiano is the equivalent of a legal guarantee by the European Union that the product is “the real thing”. In order to earn this certification, the entire process – starting with the milking of the cows and ending with the aging of the finished product and its packaging – must all take place exclusively in the specific region in Italy that is included in the official Parmigiano Reggiano DOP mandates – the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the river Reno and Mantua to the right of the river Po.

Parmigiano Reggiano is subject to very strict rules and regulations that are carefully monitored to ensure the highest possible quality standards. In order to be called Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese must be made with the same three natural ingredients that have been used for over 900 years. In contrast, according to the FDA, American made cheeses can contain cellulose and some cheese manufacturers use it as anticaking agent for grated cheese.

Also, Parmigiano Reggiano must be aged for at least 12 months before it can be sold in stores, while other hard cheeses don’t have an aging requirement – which is why they are often less complex in flavor and aroma.