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

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read