What Cow Makes Parmesan Cheese?

When it comes to Parmesan cheese, many people wonder which cow produces this delicious and famous Italian cheese. The truth is, Parmesan cheese is not made from the milk of a specific breed of cow, but rather from a combination of cows’ milk. However, the quality and taste of the cheese can vary depending on the type of cows and their diet.

The Milk

The milk used to make Parmesan cheese comes from cows that are primarily raised in the northern region of Italy, particularly in Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. These cows belong to various breeds, including Holstein-Friesian, Brown Swiss, and Red Reggiana.

Holstein-Friesian: This breed is known for its high milk production. The milk from Holstein-Friesian cows has a higher water content compared to other breeds. While this may not be ideal for making Parmesan cheese directly, it can be mixed with milk from other breeds to achieve the desired composition.

Brown Swiss: Brown Swiss cows produce milk with a higher fat content compared to Holstein-Friesian cows. This higher fat content contributes to the rich and creamy texture of Parmesan cheese.

Red Reggiana: This breed is native to Italy and is specifically raised in the region where Parmesan cheese originates. The milk from Red Reggiana cows has a unique flavor profile that adds complexity to the final product.

The Diet

The diet of the cows also plays a significant role in determining the flavor and quality of Parmesan cheese. Cows that graze on fresh grass produce milk with a different taste compared to those fed on preserved or processed feeds.

Cows that are allowed to graze freely on lush pastures produce milk with a higher content of natural herbs and flowers. This gives the cheese a pleasant and aromatic flavor. The traditional practice of feeding cows with grass and hay contributes to the unique taste of Parmesan cheese.

The Cheese-Making Process

Once the milk is collected from a combination of different cow breeds, it undergoes a specific cheese-making process to transform it into Parmesan cheese.

Curdling: The milk is heated and then curdled using rennet, an enzyme that helps separate the solid curds from the liquid whey.

Molding and Pressing: The curds are then cut into small pieces and molded into large wheels. These wheels are then pressed to remove any remaining whey.

Aging: After the initial pressing, the Parmesan wheels are aged for a minimum of 12 months, though some varieties can be aged for up to 36 months. During this time, the cheese develops its distinct flavor profile.


In summary, Parmesan cheese is made from a combination of cows’ milk without being limited to a specific breed. The quality and taste of Parmesan cheese depend on various factors such as the breeds of cows involved, their diet, and the aging process. So next time you enjoy a slice of this delectable cheese, remember that it’s not just about the cow but also about how it’s made!