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TED Case Studies
Number 776,
May, 2005
by Susie Caramanica

Buffalo Mozzarella: An Italian Original

I. Identification

1. The Issue

While the water buffalos did not originate in Italy, the milk of the water buffalo has produced a unique and rich cheese product. The buffalo mozzarella cheese product has a status as a geographic indication, since it is produced locally in seven provinces in Central-Southern Italy. Unfortunately producers from other regions of the world have attempted to copy the cheese by producing bland imitations, or by mimicking and combining it with the milk of cows. This case study will provide clarification around the origin, production, and trade protection of this delicious delicacy.

(Source: www.mozzarelladibufala.org)

This unique cheese product from Italy's Campania region is something unique - to be delightfully enjoyed on fresh bread, salad, vegetables, pasta, drizzled with olive oil, on pizza or just fresh out of the container. Mmm good..

When thinking of Italy, so many stimulating senses come to mind, including the beautiful countryside and gardens with aromatic flowers and fruits....


the freshly picked local vegetables which make delectable edible treats that even the kids can't resist...

the fresh homemade pasta by Nonna...

the famous neapolitan and other fresh homemade pizzas...

And if you've ever traveled in the Campania region of Italy, you ought to recall the delectable shops and stands that sell the famous buffalo mozzarella, to make fresh salads, fresh sandwiches, and well, to eat just plain fresh.

This famous cheese, known in Italy as "Mozzarella di Bufala di Campana", is a unique local product that is produced by the milk of the water buffaloes.

2. Description

Most often, when we think of Italian culture - we think wine, beautiful countryside, the Italian people, Roman history, and of course, the food! When you drive down the highway on the East Coast of Italy (see map) from Rome to Naples, you see plenty of stands, storefronts and sandwich shops, featuring the local delicacy, mozzarella di bufala.

This wonderfully delicate, white, stringy rich cheese is produced by the milk of water buffalos. The origin of the buffalos in Italy is somewhat controversial. They may have been introduced into Italy from India in the seventh century (mozzarelladibufala.org), or in the Middle Ages by a series of invaders ranging from the Greeks to the Normans, or that they may even have originated there. Cheese products from the buffalo milk only began to appear at about the time of the twelfth century. Later, the mozzarella di bufala became a popular and widespread food product throughout Italy by the eighteenth century (Chen).

Buffalo mozzarella is contained in water and has a short shelf life, even with refrigeration!
(Image Source: www.mozzarelladibufala.org)

The water buffalo are abundant in the marshy low land swamps of Campania region, the countryside area around Naples, because they like to keep their feet wet. They were typically used for plowing in the watery terrains, both because the strength and the size of their hooves, which do not sink too far into the moist soils. They are also known to survive in conditions where no other animal could survive, such as through disease and meager pastures, and can survive on almost any food. The regions known to produce mozzarella di bufala in Southern Italy include Caserta, Salerno provinces, Benevento, Naples, Frosinone, Latina and Rome, with approximately 77% or 850 of the Italian buffalo farmers located in Campania.

Campania Region of Italy
(Source: www.mozzarelladibufala.org)

The production of mozzarella di bufala in Southern Italy provides economic opportunity for a high quality and reputable product. It is a small scale business, based on the indigenous intellectual strength and entrepreneurship of “valorization of local resources and traditions and on the local ownership of a multitude of a small number of firms” (Bianchi, 117).

In the late 1970’s, the government of Italy officially recognized the mozzarella di bufala to protect consumers from the fraudulent practice of selling mozzarella made of cow’s milk at a higher price than mozzarella di bufala. Approximately fifteen years later, in 1993, mozzarella di bufala became a “DOP” cheese, or in English commonly known as "PDO". This provides protection and regulation by the “Consortium of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” who guaranteed the origin and legal standard of identity as made by only 100% buffalo milk.

(Source: www.mozzarelladibufala.org)

The production of mozzarella di bufala has a high profit margin, and is spread market such that no one manufacturer produces more than 4% of the market share (Bianchi, 117).

3. Related Cases


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India-US Basmati Rice Dispute


Tequila: Trade, Culture and Environment

Budweis: Who Owns the Name Budweiser?

Scotch: The Culture of the World's Leading Spirit

Who owns Grappa?

4. Author and Date: Susanne S. Caramanica (April, 2005)

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II. Legal Clusters

5. Discourse and Status: Disagreement and Completed.

Mozzarella di bufala is considered a protected trade product based on the production process, source of milk, and geographic origin. According to the Decree, this process is considered an "art". The product is specifically protected under Italy's Prime Minister's Decree dated May 10, 1993.

The details of this decree indicate that the product must come from either the geographic regions of Campania or Lazio. It must come exclusively from the milk of water buffaloes, and has specific temperature and time limitations from the time the milk is taken from the animals (less than 48 hours!), in order to ensure freshness of this quality product.

The Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is an organization recognized by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. This guardian Consortium protects the production and commerce of the buffalo mozzarella; defends the denomination of the product in Italy and to foreign countries; encourages the continuous improvement of means of production and the consequential qualitative improvement of its production; supplies technical attendance for the cheese factories and breeders; and exercises constant vigilance on the production and the commerce of the mozzarella and in particular on the correct use of its denomination of origin.

Additionally, this product is considered protected by regulations (EEC) No 2081/92 and (EEC) No 2082/92 from the European Commission, which provides indication that of the P.D.O. mark (Protected Designation of Origin), as a guarantee of the genuine product. The logo is consistent across all protected P.D.O. and according to the European Commission; the purpose of developing protection is to:

1. To encourage diverse agricultural production
2. To protect product names from misuse and imitation
3. To help consumers by giving them information concerning the specific character of the products

The mozzarella di campana appears to fit within Section 3 of TRIPS, which is the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. If the EU proposal in DOHA is accepted, it will provide the minimum set of standards for the protection and enforcement of certain intellectual property including particular food products associated with specific geographic origin. The DOHA is a set of negotations from the November 2001 declaration of the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar and is explained by the World Trade Organization. Section 3 refers to the specific provisions that protect and govern Food Geographic Indications. The two Articles 22(2) and 22(3) of the TRIPS contain protection standards for geographic indications, including origin in a geographic region and legal means to invalidate a trademark should a product not be from the designated geographical origin (Berkey).

According to the European Commission, “GIs are key to EU and developing countries cultural heritage, traditional methods of production and natural resources.” (Intellectual Property: Why Do Geographical Indications Matter to Us). Mozzarella di bufala di Campana fits in well with this perspective of protection, as the unique and delightful product has been imitated throughout the world and results in an economic loss to the Italian farmers and to the quality of the original product. The GI protection enables consumers to ensure that they are purchasing a premium guaranteed product, with the reduction and hopefully eventually, elimination, of mislabeled imitations. This is prevalent in mozzarella di bufala, as there are many imitations which are made diluted or replaced with cow's milk, and/or produced in other geographic regions around the world with less than original production process techniques. Most of the fresh mozzarella produced in the United States comes from cow's milk, and is the most typical type of mozzarella sold in supermarkets. Some specialty cheese shops which carry imported cheese products, do contain original, protected mozzarella di bufala imported from Italy, but this must be purchased and consumed within hours to days for it to maintain its freshness. However, the imported product does vary slightly from the one you will purchase in Italy, because it is treated differently to maintain freshness for several days.

Interestingly, several buffalo farmers, in the United States, such as Woodstock Water Buffalo, have begun to produce their own version of buffalo mozzarella, but due to their production techniques differing from the original product, it may not meet the standards of the true cheese connoisseur. Some of the products are close, but do not seem to quite match up! However, since the U.S. buffalo mozzarella producers need not disclose their production process since they are not regulated by the same standard, it is not clear how their process differs, or if it has to do with other factors such as the particular species of water buffalo, etc. In relation to the legal nuance of the protected name of "Mozzarella di Bufala Campana", several United States farmers are selling buffalo mozzarella under the title of "Made in USA". While these may also be delicious cheese products, they are not the original production process and quality standards as that produced in Italy.

6. Forum and Scope: Regional and Multilateral.

European Commission

Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana

7. Decision Breadth: 18 (European Union)

8. Legal Standing: Treaty

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III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

a. Geographic Domain: Europe

b. Geographic Site: Southern Europe

c. Geographic Impact: Italy

10. Sub-National Factors: Yes, limited to specific areas

11. Type of Habitat: Southern Italy is temperate, with marshy low land swamps, and watery terrain on the countryside. The fertility of the land has produced beautiful landscapes including gentle hills, other than the Matese mountains which border the rugged Irpinia area and Moline. The beautiful gulfs of Sorrento and Naples are world famous for the grottoes, sandy bays, high cliffs, and islands. While agriculture is still intensive, cattle raising and fishing have been on the decline, with the greatest resource as tourism. Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Paestum, Pompei, and Caserta are popular famous tourist destinations.

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IV. Trade Clusters

12. Type of Measure: Intellectual Property Rights

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Direct

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

a. Directly Related to Product: Yes, mMozzarella

b. Indirectly Related to Product: Yes, Agriculture

c. Not Related to Product: No

d. Related to Process: Yes, Intellectual Property and Culture

15. Trade Product Identification: Buffalo Mozzarella (English), or Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana (Italian).

16. Economic Data

Broader economic and trade indicators of Italian cheeses products, along with some facts about buffalo mozzarella will be examined to provide overall perspective of the Italian cheese and dairy market. The International Trade Centre reports information on the imports and exports on cheese and curd. Despite a relatively high overall level of cheese export production in the world, Italians import more cheese and curd products than they export. However, the gap appears to be narrowing over a five year series of data, from $300 Mil in 1999 decreasing to $70 Mil in 2003.
Cheese and Curd Imports into Italy 1999-2003 (US $000)
1,128, 661
1,304, 596

Cheese and Curd Exports from Italy 1999-2003 (US $000)

Additionally, according to the World Trade Annual, most of Italy 's cheese and curd products are largely exported to other Western European countries, specifically Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. Additionally, Africa and Asia are not even represented as importers of Italian cheeses.
2002 Italy Exports to:
Quantity (weight in metric tons)
Value ($000)
Unit Value ($/ton)


United Kingdom
Czech Republic
New Zealand
(Source: World Trade Annual)

Here are some other interesting facts:

•  There are approximately 200 producers mozzarella di bufala di Campana. This industry employs about 20,000 people and produces about $500 million in sales (Locke).

•  The market for buffalo mozzarella is highly profitable, yielding a 25% margin. In order for the smaller Southern Italian producers of the Campana region to be able to compete with the larger industrial conglomerate producers who joined this market and to maintain the quality of the product, four of the local producers began a consortium called the Consorzio di Tutela di Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

•  Of the 200 buffalo mozzarella producers, only approximately half are part of the Consorzio. Membership is entirely voluntary; dues vary depending upon the size of the producers and level of involvement in the Consorzio.

•  Buffalo mozzarella is the only cheese produced in Southern Italy to be protected with a trademark under the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) from the Italian government.

•  Most of the buffalo mozzarella affiliated with the Consorzio is exported to the United States , Japan and Latin America , however approximately 90% of the product is consumed within the borders of Italy , leaving only about 10% exported (Dolphins).

•  In order to comply with trade measures, Italy abides by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. This includes a series of quotas, tariffs, regulations, and regulations. Furthermore, the policy has strict prohibitions on hormone treatment and genetic manipulation for cattle (Konieczka).

•  Buffaloes produce far less milk than cows and therefore the cost of production is much higher than mozzarella made from cow's milk. Additionally, buffaloes give birth and produce milk in the winter, when the demand for buffalo mozzarella is lower. In the summer the production is scarce and therefore much more expensive. In order to increase the production of buffalo milk for the local producers, the Consorzio has introduced new techniques for mechanical milking and to stagger the birth of buffaloes throughout the year. As a result, the production of buffaloes and buffalo milk shows a steady increase in production over the last several decades. (Locke)


Number of Buffaloes

Production of Buffalo Milk (millions of kg)



















•  The increase in number of buffaloes and production of buffalo milk has led to an increase in production of mozzarella di bufala di Campana

•  Water buffalo are also farmed for their meat and hide. Their meat is much lower in fat and cholesterol, and higher in protein than the beef from cattle. The thick hide in place of leather for products such as footwear, handbags, clothing, and other apparel.

•  Water buffaloes produce approximately twenty to thirty cows in a lifetime. They weigh an average of 80 pounds at birth and can weigh up to 700 pounds by 6 months old. At full size, they can weigh from 1200 to 1600 pounds.

17. Impact of Trade Restriction: High. Italy dominates the buffalo mozzarella market.

18. Industry Sector: Foods

19. Exporters and Importers: Italy and many

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V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Habitat and the Water Buffaloes

According to the FAO, there are approximately 158 million water buffaloes in the world, with 97% of them in the Asian region, leaving only an extremely small population of the world's buffaloes in Italy. Most of these water buffalo are now in South East Asia and Australia.

There are two types of water buffalo – the rivervine and the swamp buffaloes. However, the rivervine, which are typically black with long curled horns are the type of buffaloes used predominantly for milk production. Alternatively, the swamp buffaloes are commonly dark gray or black, with gently curved, long horns.

As noted earlier, the history of how the water buffalo came to Italy is somewhat controversial and disputed. Various sources indicate different origins - they may have been introduced into Italy from India in the seventh century (Mozzarelladibufala.org), or in the Middle Ages by a series of invaders ranging from the Greeks to the Normans (Delia Online), or that they may even have originated there. Cheese products from the buffalo milk only began to appear at about the time of the twelfth century. Later, the mozzarella di bufala became a popular and widespread food product throughout Italy by the eighteenth century. (Chen)

The water buffalo are abundant in the marshy low land swamps of Campania region, the countryside area around Naples , because they like to keep their feet wet. They were typically used for plowing in the watery terrains, both because the strength and the size of their hooves, which do not sink too far into the moist soils. They are also known to survive in conditions where no other animal could survive, such as through disease and meager pastures, and can survive on almost any food.

In addition to milk production, the rivervine buffalo also produce high-grade meat and labor. Their meat has less fat and less bone, with a higher muscle proportion than their cow counterpart. Similar to oxen, they provide a source of transportation and can assist in agricultural development in the absence of mechanization. The buffaloes are also considered to be remarkable in their capability to gain weight without either supplemental or highly nutritious feed. Furthermore, they are considered superior to other draught animals because they can carry heavier loads than cattle for cart haulage.

Because of its placid nature, the water buffaloes can be herded with relative ease, and even entrusted to children, women, or elderly not already engaged in other farm duties. The animal is useful and productive, but can even be considered an urban animal. For example, "thousands of herds of 2-20 buffaloes may be found in the cities and towns of India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Egypt ....all fed, managed and milked in the streets."(Water Buffalo)

So, why is the milk of water buffaloes “better” suited for mozzarella?

The water buffaloes have an efficient digestive system, where they can convert fibrous, low-grade vegetation into richly flavored milk(Co-op Food Stores). The milk of the water buffalo is a richer source of protein, fat, and minerals than the milk of cows, due to the higher amount of solids in the milk, which make it very suitable for the production of cheese products. In fact, according to India Dairy, buffalo milk is considered superior to cow's milk in terms of the essential minerals:


Buffalo Milk higher than Cow's Milk (%)

Iron 37.7
Calcium 92
Phosphorous 118

Their milk contains twice as much butterfat as the milk of cows and less cholesterol. The higher fat content and lower water in their milk make the milk more commercially viable.

The rivervine buffaloes are also extremely fruitful in terms of milk production. For example, each individual female water buffalo typically produces 3,000 liters per year. Some female water buffaloes even yield 4,000 to 5,000 liters per year, indicating a potential for a possible increase in milk production (India Dairy). However, only approximately 5 percent (Co-op Food Stores) of the world's milk produced comes from water buffaloes, with the rest focused primarily in Asia.

The higher levels of protein, calcium, and phosphorus make the densely white milk of buffaloes whiter than compared to cow milk, which is more creamy yellow in color. The porcelain colored cheese which is produced by the buffalo milk typically has a different set of body and texture characteristics than cow's milk mozzarella. Additionally, it is also considered to be white due to the lack of carotene present; the water buffaloes have already transformed the carotene into Vitamin A (Star Hill Dairy). The delicate buffalo mozzarella is particularly stringy and shredded, and may even squeak between the teeth. Furthermore, the milk whey provides a firm and coarse texture. It typically has a “globular shape” the surface is smooth and bright. In the first 10 hours after packaging, it is slightly elastic and then becomes springier (Mozzarella di Bufala). The fresher it is, the better it is!

21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

Name: Water buffalo

Type: Farm animals

Diversity: Rivervine and Swamp. Approximately 180,000,000 water buffalos around the world, primarily in Asia. Of these, 100 million are in India.

22. Resource Impact and Effect: Low and Product

23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 15 to 25 years

24. Substitutes: Cow's milk mozzarella

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VI. Other Factors

25. Culture: Yes. Food is an important element of Italian culture. Cheese is no exception to this highly gastronomically focused group of people. There is a famous saying by Brillat Savarian: "A meal without cheese is like a pretty woman without an eye."

26. Trans-Boundary Issues: No

27. Rights: No

28. Relevant Literature/References

Berkey, Judson O. Implications of the WTO Protections for Food Geographic Indications. April 2000. Accessed March 21 2005.

Bianchi, Tito. "With and without Co-Operation: Two Alternative Strategies in the Food-Processing Industry in the Italian South." Entrepreneurship and regional development 13, no. 2 (2001): 117-145.

Chen, Carol. "Pasta Filata to Lmps - the Evolution of Mozzarella Cheese." Dairy Pipeline , December 2003, 1, 4-7.

Co-op Food Stores. Co-op News: The Educated Eater. Accessed February 15 2005.

Dolphins: Development of Origin Labelled Products. Accessed March 1 2005.

European Commission - Agriculture Quality Policy. Accessed March 20 2005.

FAO. Water Buffalo: An Asset Undervalued. October 2000. Accessed February 10 2005.

India Dairy. Buffalo - Many Aspects, One Animal. Accessed February 15 2005.

Intellectual Property: Why Do Geographical Indications Matter to Us? European Commission, 2003. Accessed March 21 2005.

International Trade Center, (UNCTAD/WTO, accessed February 28 2005).

Konieczka, Todd. The Pizza Police: Italy's Regulation of Neapolitan Pizza Production. American University, SIS, Trade and Environment Database, 2004. Accessed March 1 2005.

Locke, Richard M. Building Trust . Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Accessed March 1 2005.

Mozzarella Di Bufala. Accessed February 16 2005.

Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana D.O.P. Mangiara Bene, Accessed January 23 2005.

Mozzarella Di Bufala Campana D.O.P. Consorzio Tutela. Accessed March 20 2005.

Mozzarelladibufala.Org. 2004. Accessed January 23 2005.

Mozzarella: Only Buffalo Will Fit the Bill. Delia Online, 2001-2002. Accessed January 23 2005.

Star Hill Dairy. Benefits of Buffalo Milk. Accessed February 13 2005.

There Is Only One True Bufala. Way Italia, May 2002. Accessed January 23 2005.

Water Buffalo. Accessed April 13, 2005.

World Trade Annual. New York: Walker and Company in cooperation with United Nations, 2002.

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