Quebec cheesemakers push for an official designation for poutine

Two people eating poutine Photo by Habib Sajid/Shutterstock

A group of cheesemakers in Quebec is looking to put poutine on the international map, by requesting a government designation for the French-Canadian comfort food staple.

Luc Boivin, owner of Fromagerie Boivin in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, said a special designation could make it easier to market poutine to the rest of the world and draw attention to its place in the Quebecois food scene. He thinks a poutine designation could help sell Quebec cheese curds.

“If you look around the world, the bread from France, the baguette, is protected, the Belgian french fry is protected, the Napoli pizza is protected too,” Boivin said in an interview. “At the end, it says to the rest of the world that the products have been invented here.”

Quebec is Canada’s primary producer of cheese curds, with hundreds of local fromageries making their curds fresh daily. The fresher the curd, the squeakier it is. As soon as they’ve cooled, they lose some of their signature squeakiness. 

Depending on the exact wording of the governmental designation, poutine may only be considered “poutine” if made with Quebec cheese curds. The province currently transports frozen cheese curds across Canada by truck, making them relatively easy to transport worldwide. 

The marketing aspect is what Boivin keeps coming back to. He says the Quebec dairy industry has been “very impacted” by the United States-Canada-Mexico trade agreement. “We don’t have a lot of potential to grow in the future,” he said. But he sees poutine as the industry’s potential saviour.

Poutine is a low-barrier food for restaurants around the world to add to their menus, but still allows for plenty of creative potential, he says. 

“You don’t need to invest a lot of money for equipment inside the restaurant,” he argues. And he says the special designation would help poutine to become “a new trend”.

Boivin, as a member of the Conseil des Industriels laitiers du Québec, says a working group has formed to consider the future of poutine’s governmental status—and, with it, the future of the province’s cheese industry. 

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