The Earth Shook and the Wheels Came Tumbling Down

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the area between Modena, Bologna and Mantua, Italy on Sunday May 20 at 4:04 AM at the eastern edge of the production zone for Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese.

A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the area between Modena, Bologna and Mantua, Italy on Sunday May 20 at 4:04 AM at the eastern edge of the production zone for Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese. To date no Parmesan producers or agers are hurt but our thoughts are with the families of the seven residents of the area who lost their lives, the dozens injured and the thousands more who are sleeping in their cars and in tents due to damage to their homes.

The Earth Shook and the Wheels Came Tumbling Down

Not All Producers Affected
There are hundreds of production and aging facilities throughout the controlled district for Parmigiano Reggiano, which covers a heart-shaped area about 90 miles by 68 miles, that includes the entire provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Modena and portions of the province of Mantua to the east of the Po River and Bologna to the west of the Reno River. The epicenter of the quake was located in the northeastern most part of the production zone, so not all producers of Parmesan were affected. However ten cheese houses and their aging rooms were hard hit and wheels of cheese fell from the shelves in aging rooms throughout the region. Approximately 300,000 wheels of Parmesan tumbled to the ground when the earthquake knocked the shelves over. Damaged wheels are estimated to be around 150,000.

Aging Parmesan Takes Time
Aging is an important part of what makes Parmesan made in Italy so very special. Each year about 3,000,000 wheels are produced and given an average of 24 months of aging. During this time they sit quietly on shelves (for the first year in the cheese makers’ warehouses and for the second year in large communal warehouses that can hold hundreds of thousands of wheels). During the aging period the cheeses are flipped and cleaned every week by two-story tall robots. The long aging process is what helps Parmigiano Reggiano wheels to develop flavor, aroma and a high nutritional value. Officials from the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano are still assessing damage to the Parmigiano Reggiano producing and aging facilities.