A cook prepares a poutine at La Banquise restaurant in Montreal on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Quebec dairy industry trying to get a protected trademark for the popular Quebecois dish. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A cook prepares a poutine at La Banquise restaurant in Montreal on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The Quebec dairy industry trying to get a protected trademark for the popular Quebecois dish. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

‘Protect our poutine’: Quebec dairy group looks to give gooey dish official status

National strategy could help fries-and-gravy concoction become trendy ‘like sushi or tacos’

A group representing Quebec’s dairy industry says it’s eyeing a special government designation for the term poutine in order to better promote it internationally.

Luc Boivin, a cheese producer and member of the Conseil des Industriels laitiers du Québec, says the traditional dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy has become a source of national pride.

“Almost everyone has a story to tell about a poutine, whether it’s after a hockey game, or coming out of a bar at 3 a.m. and going to get a poutine at La Banquise in Montreal or Chez Ashton in Quebec City,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

The owner of Fromagerie Boivin, based in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, believes poutine is set to become the next big food trend, like hamburgers, tacos and sushi before it.

In order to capitalize on the dish’s growing popularity, Boivin says a working group is forming that will seek to create a national branding strategy to help producers collectively market their products. The group is also looking at obtaining “reserved designation” status, which is an official recognition by the Quebec government of the authenticity of distinctive regional food products.

He said the project is in its early stages, and it’s not yet clear whether the group will seek out simple recognition for the dish, or a more protective mechanism that would restrict outsiders from using the term.

While the details are still being worked out, the eventual goal of the campaign is to protect and promote the identity of poutine as a Quebec and Canadian product. “Like pizza is Italian and sushi is Japanese, we have to protect that identity,” Boivin said.

He said the success of poutine is one of the rare bright spots in recent years for Quebec cheese producers, who are still dealing with increased competition stemming from the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

He believes there’s a huge opportunity in exporting the cheese curds, which are the signature ingredient in poutine and are made primarily in Quebec. Curds are shipped frozen, making them relatively easy to export, he said.

He said the regulatory process is likely to be complex, since dairy is a highly controlled industry. But he’s allowing himself to dream of the day when sports stars such as NHL player Sidney Crosby or football player Laurent Duvernay-Tardif could be called upon to promote a homegrown product.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and food policy at Dalhousie University and the author of the book “Poutine Nation,” said poutine originated in Warwick, Que. in the late 1950s when a customer came into a restaurant and asked owner Fernand Lachance to add cheese curds to his fries. The dish was further refined in 1964 when Jean-Paul Roy, a professional sauce-maker in Drummondville, added gravy to the dish, Charlebois said.

It was later picked up by local restaurants, and has since become popular worldwide. “What poutine has accomplished in 50 years, it took pizza 110 years,” Charlebois said in a phone interview.

He agrees that something should be done to “officialize” poutine, which he describes as the first dish that is “truly Canadian.” However, he prefers an approach that seeks to recognize the origins of poutine rather than trademark it.

He said a protective approach would create more bureaucracy and regulation and overlooks the fact that one of the dish’s main appeals is its flexibility and ability to be customized to all tastes. He suggests Canada instead follow the lead of France, which has submitted a proposal to UNESCO to have the baguette recognized as an intangible cultural heritage symbol.

A similar designation for poutine would help to celebrate its heritage, its ingredients, such as cheese curds, and its unique story, he said.

“It’s a rural story, and very rarely will you see a dish created in a little village that becomes world famous,” he said.

— Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Competitors scarf down poutine for champion title in Kelowna

RELATED: Burritos, miso soup and key lime pie among top 10 ordered foods in B.C.

Just Posted

Ridge Meadows RCMP held a torch run event at MRSS to support Special Olympics. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Ridge Meadows RCMP hold Special Olympics Torch Run

Officers joined by two Special Olympians for annual fundraiser

Former ARMS president Geoff Clayton told councillors that Maple Ridge city hall has a legacy of protecting the Alouette River. (Special to The News)
ARMS, Katzie, public blast riverfront subdivision plan

Public hearing for opposes development on South Alouette River

The Pitt Meadows Orange Heart Project creates hearts from card stock and vinyl. (Special to The News)
Pitt Meadows Orange Heart Project taking off

Family will be guests of Katzie for blanket ceremony

The BC SPCA Lock-In For Love raising money for animals in need of a new home. (BC SPCA Maple Ridge Branch/Facebook)
Lock-In raising money for the Maple Ridge SPCA

The BC SPCA Lock-In For Love ends June 24

Ridge Meadows RCMP seized drugs, cash and guns from a house on Lougheed Highway and 221 Street. (Special to The News)
RCMP seize drugs, cash and guns from Maple Ridge house

Items were recovered after search warrant executed on Lougheed Highway home June 11

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read