Last month (how can it be a month already?!), I had the privilege and responsibility to represent Slow Food Chicago in Turin, Italy at Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto 2016 (http://bit.ly/2eg1qH3). This biennial conference and food show celebrates our diverse food cultures, protects biodiversity, and works to improve our global food system through local action and community solutions. The overarching principle of Slow Food is to create a food system that ensures that the food we eat is good, clean, fair, and accessible to all.
Slow Food Chicago sent a 20 member delegation. It included chefs, urban growers & beekeepers, farmers, leaders, and lovers of great food. We joined 7000 delegates (and a million food show visitors) from around the world to share ideas, trade stories, and sample delicacies.
I was on a panel for Slow Meat (Slow Food’s initiative to improve animal agriculture). Other panelists hailed from South Africa, Australia, Cuba, and Italy. Concentrated Feeding Operations (CAFOs), monopolistic global companies, and the overuse of antibiotics are global concerns. Whether an attendee was from Chile, Japan, Ireland, or the United States; the issue of giant meat companies consolidating and concentrating control, power, and the profits from our food system is an overarching concern. Regulations (written by food conglomerate lobbyists) make small-scale production, processing, and distribution difficult and expensive.
CAFOs continue to expand, globally and threaten the environment with their immense volumes of waste. Overuse of antibiotics in CAFOs, are putting global health at risk as well. Losing the effectiveness of antibiotics will have dire effects. The quest of food conglomerates for uniform products threaten biodiversity.
All these threats are daunting, but there IS hope. Care and awareness are growing around the world! 7000 delegates from around the world came to share stories, cultures, and accomplishments. Hundreds of food artisans shared samples and sold everything from organically grown saffron from Spain to wild boar salami from Slovenia. I learned that the language of food is universal – who doesn’t LOVE food. We talked over drinks of Italian espresso, Austrian pomegranate cider, and Australian craft beer. Encouraged by new friendships, heads filled with new ideas, and buoyed by our camaraderie we return home to continue and expand our efforts to change the food system to one that is Good, Clean, and Fair for EVERYONE!
What can we all do?
Shortening the chain from farmer to consumer is the best way to fight these threats. Supporting farmers who follow holistic practices that embrace diversity and support and improve local ecosystems, eating meat from heritage breeds raised according to their natures, and spending at farmers markets and through Community Supported Agriculture are great ways to do this! Understanding that meat from humanely raised animals processed by ethical butchers will cost more. Slow Meat’s tagline is “Better Meat, Less.” It’s an investment in the food system we want – one that honors the land, animals, farmers, and ultimately eaters.
Over the coming weeks, I will post more vignettes from my trip .