Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Queijo do Serro - Brazil's First Protected Cheese

Yesterday's post on Flavors of Brazil was concerned with the complicated nomenclature of artisanal cheeses coming from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, and detailed the recent inclusion of some cheeses from Minas Gerais in the government's IG (indicação geográfica ) program, which grants protected status and naming rights to locally produced food products. In 2011, the governmental body responsible for administering the IG program granted IG status to Queijo do Serro cheese from the Serro region of Minas Gerais. Queijo do Serro is the first cheese in Brazil, and the 14th food product overall, to receive this status and to have its name protected and prodution restrited to a specific region.

Currently there are 80 small chese producers scattered among 11 municipalities whose cheeses meet the geographical and technical standards required by the IG program. Only the cheeses made by these 80 producers are now entitled to call their cheese Queijo do Serro. (Queijo is the Portuguese word for cheese).

According to the leader of the Seroo region cheese producers' association, the granting of IG status is important for his group because it means that the name is protected nationally and that cheese manufacturers from other states will not be entitled to use the name Queijo do Serro for their products. If a cheese bears that name, it will mean that it was produced in the Serro region and nowhere else.

This is all very good news for cheese producers, but it does mean that for many Brazilians they will not have access to Queijo do Serro at all. Interstate shipping of raw-milk cheeses is currently prohibited in Brazil (a situation we've covered before), and so at the momento Queijo do Serro, the true one, can only be sold in Minas Gerais. Now that these dairy farmers have successfully convinced the government to protect their right to be the sole producers of Queijo do Serro, perhaps now they can persuade the government to let them sell it in other parts of the country!

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