Collective brand, heritage valuation, artisan food, Cotija cheese.
Objective: To identify the functional elements which impact the processes of patrimonial activation to obtain the Region of Origin Cotija Cheese Collective Brand, through collective social action as the basis of territorial development in the Sierra of the states of Jalisco and Michoacán.
Design/Methodology/Approach: A qualitative study was conducted, based on the tradition of rural sociology, where the categories of analysis of the Localized Agrifood Systems approach were used. For this purpose, semi-structured interviews with different social actors were applied where there was an inquiry about the technical, organizational, economic and political aspects that have an impact in obtaining seals of quality, destined to the protection and differentiation of emblematic foods.
Results: After an attempt to obtain the Denomination of Origin, given the particularities of the Localized Agrifood System involved in the production of Cotija cheese, the decision was to obtain a Collective Brand whose prerequisites adjusted better to the characteristics of their productive systems. Obtaining the seal was an important achievement in terms of the horizon that this signal generated for producers and for the territory. However, this is only the beginning in a process of constant valuation that must be redefined throughout time.
Study Limitations/Implications: It is an exploratory study that only addresses the internal dimension of the productive system of Cotija cheese; a deeper analysis ought to broaden the study of the social networks implied in the processes of valuation, including actors outside the territory.
Findings/Conclusions: Mexico’s agrifood heritage is a strategic resource that must be protected for cultural, economic, food security and health reasons. This should be assumed as an obligation of the State in co-responsibility with academia, producers and consumers. Obtaining a collective brand is only one step within an unfinished valuation process that must be maintained through collective action and market stimulus.