Slow Food USA hosted its first-ever Slow Meat conference this year. I wanted to go—I always want to go to stuff like this—but because I’m a farmer in Kentucky and the event was in June in Denver, it didn’t work out. Still, I paid attention to what was happening there because sustainable livestock production is possibly my largest ag interest.
Slow Food, in case you don’t know, is an organization advocating good, clean, fair food, which started in Rome, Italy, by Carlo Petrini in response to a McDonald’s opening less than a block from the iconic Spanish Steps. Think the opposite of fast food. Slow Food has more than 1,300 chapters around the world.
I’ve been involved in Slow Food for several years; attended the amazing international conference Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy, in 2012; and am active with Slow Food Bluegrass, my local convivium. Slow Food makes it into mainstream news in the U.S. every now and then, but it’s really a big deal in Europe—especially in Italy.
How to Eat Slow Meat
Now that Slow Food is making a push for Slow Meat (tagged Slow Meat: Better, Less), it’s my hope that our country will engage in more conversations about issues surrounding intensive livestock farming. Slow Food is developing five habits for those wanting to get on board with Slow Meat:
1. Broil for Biodiversity
Slow Food has long been committed to biodiversity through its Ark of Taste, highlighting endangered foods around the world. On the U.S. meat front, there are more than 40 breeds of cattle, hogs, poultry, sheep, goats, bison and rabbits on the Ark. With the idea that you have to eat them to save them, the sustainable production of these heritage breeds is important as they take center stage on the plate.
2. Learn the Labels
“Cage-free eggs” sound good, and “natural” products must be OK … but what you see is not always what you get with food labels. This Slow Meat element encourages consumers to learn the truth behind the labels. (Get started with the HobbyFarms.com labels guide.)
3. Give Better Meat a Sporting Chance
When’s the last time you went to a ball game and got a humanely produced, antibiotic-free, pastured-raised hot dog? I didn’t think so. Slow Food is going to be working on consumer education for better meat sourcing for stadiums.
4. Eat Nose-to-Tail
This element of Slow Meat excites me because I love chicken-heart tacos (I swear, I do!). Also, I took a class about cooking with off cuts of meat with Italian chef Francesca Cianchi at Slow Food’s Terra Madre, where we made lampredotto, a cow-stomach pasta dish. It was amazing, and no one was more surprised than I was. I can’t wait to see how Slow Food will be promoting the concept of eating nose to tail—an excellent way to curb food waste—because I’d personally love to learn more.
5. Meatless Mondays
A day off from eating meat has been touted by the Meatless Monday movement since 2003. Slow Food hasn’t yet announced its plans for this meat-free day, but I see this concept fitting in with Slow Meat, as there’s no way to sustainably produce all of the meat the world’s growing population is currently consuming.
Breaking Out of the Factory Farm
Slow Food has its work cut out for them with this new venture, as there are not a lot of people out there willing to reduce their bacon consumption or consider exactly how their hamburger is raised. I know my friends are tired of hearing about it, at least. (I love this “Too Much at Steak” publication from Slow Food International, ActionAid and Compassion in World Farming, which explains how your meat choices impact everything from the animals and the farmers to your health and the environment.)
In Slow Food USA executive director Richard McCarthy’s email to the membership announcing these programs, he points to the “culture of confinement” as what’s gotten us here: “We are confined to a narrow range of meat choices, animals are confined in inhumane conditions, and wealth is confined to the hands of a few. Fast, cheap meat costs us environmental health, public health, economic health—and sacrifices the tasty experience that is Slow Meat!”
There’s a big opportunity here for small-scale, sustainable livestock farmers to educate consumers and bring new consumers into this nonconfinement way of thinking and eating. Do so by promoting your own sustainable means of animal production or join in partnership with a Slow Food chapter in your area.
Start raising meat ethically with help from HobbyFarms.com:
- Raise Pigs on Woodlots for Tastier Pork
- 8 Reasons to Buy Heritage Pork Despite the Price
- Use Laying Hens for Meat
- Raising Meat Goats
- Video: How to Butcher a Chicken