This paper contains an analysis of the dynamics of the economic behaviour of the cheese dairies operating within the "Parmigiano-Reggiano" (PR) cheese production system. These firms play a crucial role in the supply chain of this highly artisanal product, which interests over 15% of Italian milk production. The analysis is focused in particular on the nature of the up and downstream relationships of the cheese dairies. Sub-chains are identified characterised by stable and constant relationships between dairy farmers, cheese dairies and who/esaler-ripeners, which contribute significantly to the reduction of transaction costs. Cheese dairies have only limited possibilities for product diversification. This strategy is performed essentially by the cheese ripening firms. Cheese production techniques remain primarily artisanal, where the cheese-maker continues to play a key role in the quality definition of the cheese. However, standardisation practices are introduced to comply with the demand of the large retailers, increasingly asking for cheese Jots with constant and limited quality variations. The profitability of the PR system is highly cyclical and the market transparency is low, but five-year averages show that the remuneration of labour and capital invested on the dairy farms and the cheese dairies is satisfactory.


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