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

Douglas Denyer walks with his wife Dorothy, who passes away at 90. The long-time resident of Langley and Rotarian since 1984 turned 100 on June 16. He has two sons, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Celebrating ‘a beautiful life,’ Langley senior turns 100

‘I’ve always tried to help out everyone I can” Douglas Denyer says

Vancouver Giants will return to the ice on Oct. 8, hosting the Prince George Cougars at Langley Events Centre. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Giants will renew division rivalry with Cougars when season resumes in October

First game at Langley Events Centre since February of last year

A flower-bedecked memorial to one three people who died at the scene of a suspicious house fire in Langley stands outside the burnt-out house in the 19600 block of Wakefield Drive on Monday, June 29, 2020. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
First hearing for man charged in Langley triple homicide

Kia Ebrahimian faces three counts of second degree murder

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in Langley

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

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

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

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

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

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

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact they 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

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read