Italy consumes a great deal more olive oil than it produces. So where does olive oil from Italy come from?
Big Italian olive oil companies buy their oil from Greece, Spain, and the Middle East. The oil is shipped to Italy, where it is blended, bottled, and exported to America, where people looking for olive oil from Italy will buy it without suspecting its true origins.
On this very long supply chain, the oil gets older and loses its unique qualities as it is blended. The fats involved are still healthy fats, but even if it grades as "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" it's quality is questionable.
Which brings us to a good question: What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil? In the old days, it was the oil from the first pressing of the olives, which had the lowest acid content. Times have changed.
Today most olive oil is produced in a different way – no more crushing olives with stones, pressing it with weights and heating it up to get out the lower quality oil. In a modern olive press, the olives are crushed in a steel machine and the oil is extracted by centrifuge.
The temperature is kept low to protect the oil quality. There are no subsequent pressings – all of the edible oil is extracted at the same time. The secret: if the olives were harvested at the right time and handled correctly, every drop of this oil is an extra virgin.