by CIWF (in collaboration with IRPI)

A recent Compassion in World Farming investigation uncovered cruelty behind Parmigiano Reggiano, also known as Parmesan, and its sister product Grana Padano cheese. We visited a number of Italian farms supplying milk for these cheeses, and found intensive, zero-grazing systems with cows permanently confined indoors.

Both Parmesan and Grana Padano are produced in a specific area of Italy, by groups of producers and traders who work together and use the same standards. These cheeses are renowned for their quality. They are found in supermarkets all around the world and are a main ingredient of Italian pasta and risotto dishes.

It is shocking that these products, which are marketed as ‘premium’ and ‘high quality’, can hide such suffering behind the label.

The horrible truth behind a premium product

Cows need access to pasture with plenty of space and opportunity to graze. This is important for their physical and mental well-being. But, on the Parmesan and Grana Padano farms we visited, the cows were kept indoors all year round.

lack of resting places and filthy conditions
Zero grazing limits the ability of animals to perform natural behaviours, causing them to suffer. Our investigators also found cows with leg injuries and severe lameness. Some animals even appeared emaciated. The sheds we visited were poorly designed, with cubicles that were too small. Slippery alleys covered in water, faeces and urine meant that cows could struggle to reach feeding and resting places.

What is more, many of the cows producing milk for Grana Padano have been selectively bred to produce as much milk as possible. This creates such a huge demand for energy that the animals can struggle to eat enough food, leaving them exhausted and in a miserable physical state.

In addition to causing suffering to the animals, intensive zero grazing systems are also part of the factory farming machine that drives the loss of wildlife, pushing many species to the brink of extinction. We need to put farm animals back on the land for their well-being and for the sake of our wildlife.

You can help bring about change by writing to the representatives of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano today. Ask them to give cows access to pasture and improve their welfare.

Together we can make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of dairy cows. Thank you.

What should I put on my pasta?

Unfortunately, almost all Parmesan and Grana Padano cheese comes from zero-grazed cows. Even the EU Organic certification does not ensure pasture access in this case.

For higher welfare cheese, choose a certification or brand that guarantees cows have access to pasture. In the UK, the Soil Association, Organic Farmers and Growers, Waitrose Duchy Organic and Sainsbury’s Organic are good options.

Alternatively, why not try a vegan alternative to grated hard cheese? These are widely available online, in specialist shops and many supermarkets.

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