BRUSSELS, 25 November 2019 – Cheese from the island of Pag is the latest Croatian product which has now been protected at EU level. On Monday, the European Commission approved the application for inclusion of ‘Paški sir’ in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications.
The cheese, reputed to be the most famous artisan cheese in Croatia, stands out for its aromatic richness derived from the aromas of local plants and the traditional know-how of the island’s cheese makers.
Under the registration document, Paški sir is described as a hard sheep’s cheese produced from whole sheep’s milk from the island of Pag’s native breed of sheep. ‘Paški sir’ cheese is produced on the island of Pag and the two islets of Maun and Škrda. The product is matured for at least 60 days before being marketed.
Paški sir cheese is produced on the island of Pag, which geologically falls within the karst area, where land is barely cultivable. The dominant karst relief and Mediterranean climate have influenced the characteristics of the plant cover and the development of sheep farming as the main agricultural activity. Pag has much less vegetation (in particular tall plants) than the other large Adriatic islands, so much of its land cover is dominated by karst pastures, which are very important for farming on the island as they account for 90 % of total agricultural land.
Recent floristic and phytocenological scientific research into the most common compositions of pastures on the island of Pag have identified 331 species of vascular flora, most of which belong to the Mediterranean floristic element. The specific natural conditions primarily favour the growth of the typical flora of Mediterranean grass lands. A large proportion of aromatic and medicinal plants can therefore be found on most of the island’s pastures.
Centuries of sheep selection on the island of Pag have created the native breed of sheep, Pag sheep, which is almost exclusively bred on the island of Pag and which is unmatched in its ability to exploit the scarce vegetation of the rocky pastures and fully adapted to the semi-extensive farming method, in which milk production is largely deter mined by environmental factors.
The production of Paški sir was first mentioned in 1831 in the New Universal Geographical Dictionary. Even today, “Paški sir” is mainly produced on small family farms where the sheep of the island of Pag are also raised. This ensures the origin of the cheese, as well as the transmission of the traditional production method within families.
Croatia now has over two dozen products on the register of Protected Geographical Indications (PGI). They include Lička janjetina. pršut from Dalmatia, Drniš, Krk and Istria, olive oil from Cres, Krk, Solta and Korčula, mandarins from Neretva, Poljički soparnik, sour cabbage from Ogulin, Kulen from Baranja and Slavonian, cabbage from Varazdin, Slavonian honey, salt and lamb from Pag, Međimursko meso ‘z tiblice’, turkey from Zagorje and potatoes from Lika.
EU protected geographical status helps protect product name from misuse and imitation and helps consumers by giving them information concerning the specific character of the products.