mpe cornish pasty
A milestone for British pasty?
04:04 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Cornish pasties began as a humble and hearty meal for tired and starving miners

Today 100 businesses in Cornwall produce around 120 million pasties every year

The Cornish pasty has recognition under the EU's protected food names scheme

It is said that the devil would never dare cross the River Tamar into Cornwall for fear of ending up as a filling in a Cornish pasty. The legend, it seems, could just be true.

Here, at the very foot of Britain, every pasty is filled to the brim with ingredients, from the traditional beef to chicken tikka or pizza and chilli.

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And what began as a humble and hearty meal for tired and starving miners continues to fill local mouths as well as local industry.

Today, there are some 100 pasty businesses in Cornwall together producing around 120 million Cornish pasties a year.

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Despite the numbers and the competition, this is a local business – with farmers, butchers and bakers all playing a part. Around 25% of turnover is spent back in Cornwall, which means that collectively they contribute $115 million to the Cornish economy.

It’s a huge contribution to one of Britain’s poorest regions.

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For the locals, this is a provider of year-round, full time, permanent employment. According to Cornwall Council, 13,000 jobs are related to pasty-making, and this does not include work on the farms.

My visit to Ginsters, Cornwall’s largest pasty producer, is a perfect example of this. As I tour the factory, Mark Duddridge, the company’s managing director, tells me they employ 2,300 people across four manufacturing sites. The produce, he tells me proudly, is sourced from farms within a 20 mile distance.

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At a bakery in the town of St. Just, where pasties are still made by hand, there is a sense of pride in every pasty that is filled and crimped. This is understandable; after all, it is a vital lifeline for the industry and its people.

Getting here has been hard work though. It has taken more than eight years for the Cornish pasty to win official recognition protection under the Europen Union’s protected food names scheme, or PGI, as it’s also known.

While the scheme allows it a place among parma ham, Champagne and stilton cheese, the benefits for the region are more substantial.

The new title provides European funding which helps some businesses and suppliers invest in their facilities, ultimately generating jobs.

As I tuck into my pasty, I realize the potential for growth beyond the Cornish shores. In the next couple months, I am told, Warren’s Bakery will be shipping their pasties to Germany, Canada and even some Scandinavian countries.

The devil may not have dared cross the River Tamar, but it seems the humble and tougher Cornish pasty is about to do just that.