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Prosciutto di Parma is one of the products at the centre of the Made in Italy mission, and as such it has been a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product since 1996. Currently, 140 companies in Italy produce Prosciutto di Parma each year, for a total of 8.7 million hams in 2020.
Makers of Prosciutto di Parma must follow strict guidelines indicated by the Consorzio, which safeguards and promotes the product. Firstly, the pigs selected for the ham must be born and bred in specific areas. They must also be one of three breeds – Large White, Landrace and Duroc – be fed with high-quality food and be at least nine months old and about 160kg.
The legs are required to rest for 24 hours in refrigerating areas until they become tighter, and they are salted by a ‘salt master’. Salt is the only preservative used; no chemicals are added. After the resting period, hams are washed and dried, softened with lard and salt and then transferred to a cellar to complete the curing phase. The ageing period lasts at least one year. After this, hams receive the official certification stamp and the Ducal Crown, and they are inspected by an independent certifying body to ensure that all the procedures were followed.
Prosciutto di Parma is one of the products that is most affected by the ‘Italian sounding’ phenomenon outside of Italy, whereby products that look or sound Italian are actually produced elsewhere. In order to understand if the products on the shelves are authentic Italian, consumers should always check the labels when food-shopping.
The European quality scheme aims to protect and promote food and drink products whose characteristics are linked to their geographical origin and to the traditional know-how used to produce them.
Geographical Indications include PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed):
• PDO products have a strong link to the place where they were made: all production and preparation phases must take place in a specific region.
• PGI products need only one stage of production, processing or preparation to take place in a specific area.
• TSG highlights the traditional aspects of the products, rather than their area, and the way they are made.
The True Italian Taste project
The project True Italian Taste was created to promote authentic Italian produce abroad. As part of the government programme The Extraordinary Italian Taste, the project is funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and realised thanks to Assocamerestero.
In the UK, the project is coordinated by the Italian Chamber of Commerce for the UK, which organises events to safeguard authentic Italian food and drink products. Through these activities, which can be addressed at media influencers, journalists, buyers, and consumers, the Chamber of Commerce supports Italian producers of niche, high-quality, and certified products.
Encouraging a conscious consumption of Made in Italy products is one way to combat the diffusion of the ‘Italian sounding’ phenomenon, which has reached a value of €100 billion worldwide. In the UK, the most affected products are Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and olive oil.
Italy has more than 300 food products and 500 wines recognised with PDO/PGI/TSG denominations and is a leading country for food and wine excellences. The full list of the denominations can be found on the website of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
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