On the surface they might look like similar cheeses, but that's not the case…
Before seeing what the differences are, let's see how Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are similar.
They are both long-aged cheeses, cheeses of the so-called "hard paste" type where 70% of the product is made up of dry matter. They have a unique taste and are both rich in nutrients such as proteins, vitamins of group A and B, minerals, phosphorus and potassium.
Let's find out the 7 differences between Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano:
- Parmigiano Reggiano is produced totally without additives: even those of natural origin are prohibited. Grana Padano uses Lysozyme, a protein extracted from chicken eggs to control the fermentation of Clostridium tyrobutyricum.
- In Parmigiano Reggiano the fodder for the cows is exclusively hay and grass, without the use of ensiled or fermented fodder. In Grana Padano, the diet also includes the use of corn silage.
- In Parmigiano Reggiano, the branding takes place at 12 months, the product reaches long maturations (24, 30 months and beyond, without limits) and consumption is on average over 24 months. Grana Padano is branded at 9 months and the average consumption is at 15 months. The disciplinary of Grana Padano provides for the two specific types "Over 16 months" and "Riserva - over 20 months", but Grana Padano can also reach higher maturations.
- Parmigiano Reggiano producers have greater constraints: milk collection twice a day, production only once a day and the refrigeration of milk below 18 degrees is prohibited. In Grana Padano, milk can be withdrawn both twice a day and in a single solution, but with refrigeration above 8 degrees. Similarly, the transformation can occur once or twice a day. When the individual "milks" are collected separately, the milk for Grana Padano is also not refrigerated. In both cases, however, it is officially Italian milk.
- In the Parmigiano Reggiano dairies only natural whey is used as a bacterial starter to strengthen the microbiological process. In Grana Padano, laboratory-isolated lactic bacteria are also allowed, with a limitation of 12 times a year.
- The production area of Parmigiano Reggiano is much more limited: the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena and part of the provinces of Mantua (to the right of the Po) and Bologna, to the left of the Reno. Grana Padano can be produced by farms in 33 provinces in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Trentino Alto Adige (limited to the province of Trento and some municipalities in the province of Bolzano).
- Parmigiano Reggiano is produced for 20% in mountain areas (it is the most important mountain DOP), while the mountain production of Grana Padano is equivalent to 2% of the total.
In summary, the producers of Parmigiano Reggiano have some more constraints than the producers of Grana Padano, this does not necessarily mean a better quality of the product. Even a Grana Padano cheese made with milk produced by cows fed in a natural way and brought to a medium-long maturation can give great satisfactionto the palate.