Parmesan cheese worth its weight in gold? No, really!

The World

Pasta might be the slang term for money, but really it's the parmesan cheese making the big bucks these days.

Recently, an Italian cheesemaker, Quattro Madonne Caseificio dell'Emilia, announced that it has raised more than $6 million in bonds guaranteed by wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Yep, Parmesan cheese.

Parmesan has the name recognition. In fact cheesemakers in the European Union outside of a certain region of Italy cannot use the term Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s an older variety of cheese that’s been traded around Europe since medieval times, says Fabio Parasecoli, who directs the Food Studies Initiative at The New School in New York City. But its not just its popularity that makes it valuable, says Parasecoli.

In a very volatile Italian economy, Parmesan is reliable. Steady, says Parasecoli.

“The [financial] crisis started in Italy later than in the US but it’s been deeper and it’s still going on. The consequence of this is it is very difficult for small companies to secure any sort of investments,” says Parasecoli.

What small companies can bank on, says Parasecoli, is the reputation and the popularity of their cheese. And in the case of Quattro Madonne Caseificio dell'Emilia, Parmigiano Reggiano is a pretty stable bet.

“[Parmesan] cheese is so well known both in Italy and abroad that the production is really really likely to be sold out,” says Parasecoli.

Parasecoli doesn’t think this is a flashy stunt.

“I think it’s really a company trying to bank on the name of its product and the fact that they have a very good possibility to sell it all to raise money for projects and to continue,” says Parasecoli.

So the next time you grate some Parm on your tagliatelle and ragu, remember this: You may be eating a guaranteed bond.

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