On March 21, 2009, the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food recognized, by legal notice published in the Gazette officielle, "Agneau de Charlevoix" (Charlevoix lamb), as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), a reserved designation to link a product to its terroir. This date marks the beginning of an important responsibility falling upon the Conseil des Appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV) who must now monitor its use.
A Protected Geographical Indication establishes a link between a given product and region. It serves to identify in which specific geographical area the production, transformation or even the development of the product is localized and, in turn, the particular quality, reputation or other characteristic the product is associated with. Consequently, in having their products protected against identity usurpation by a PGI, regions are even more encouraged in their efforts to promote their agriculture and economic development.
Today, there are only six (6) lamb producers who conform to the specifications of this type of PGI. Outside Charlevoix, there are only two (2) points of sale, one is in Quebec City and the other one in Montreal. So, what are the characteristics of this now famous “Agneau de Charlevoix”? It is, as its name says, a lamb born and raised in the Charlevoix region. This lamb, characterized by low fat and small body weight, is the product of the region's prevailing conditions. Commercialization of the “Agneau de Charlevoix” meat can be performed in one of two ways: either in unfrozen carcasses or in pieces of meat that are conditioned, fresh or frozen. It is essential that the lamb be born, and that all breeding and production be done, in the protected area, which includes any one of the thirteen (13) municipalities in the Charlevoix region. Moreover, the lamb must be fed by its mother until it reaches a weight ranging from 15 to 20 kg. The lamb’s diet is made of grains and quality fodder produced by the farmers in the region but no corn.
All products covered by the decree must, from now on, be certified in accordance with the specifications manual of the PGI “Agneau de Charlevoix”. Hence, certification is required in order to sell under this reserved designation. Certification can be obtained by any individual or legal entity performing the milling, breeding, or even the transforming, cutting or conditioning operations. Retail transformers (butchers) are also included. The CARTV has accredited a certification body to perform certification for all markets.
It is important to mention that the CARTV has provided for a Policy of Trade Continuity in order to give time to conform and adapt to this new reality. This policy offered a period of time that ended on July 15, 2009, within which products not conforming to the specifications of this designation could nevertheless be sold under the name “Agneau de Charlevoix”.
A reserved designation must not be confused with a traditional trade-mark. A reserved designation identifies a product by its origin and its particular qualities. Moreover, it refers mainly to products qualified as being of very high quality. While using a reserved designation without having the right to do so does not constitute a trade-mark violation, it can nevertheless lead to penalties: producers should use caution.
In short, this is very good news for the Charlevoix region. This designation will finally help to protect this great region’s distinctiveness and culinary delights.