Natural charcuterie: native breeds, wild-raised, and no nitrates

20 July 2023

Those who are familiar with us know that Slow Food has been passionate about natural products for a while. Whether it’s cheeses, breads, wines, or cured meats. This is especially true at Cheese, where it all began in 2017.

But what is natural charcuterie, exactly?

The origins of cured meat

If we want to trace the origin of a cured meat, we need to start with the breeds raised, the farming practices, and the animals’ diet.

There’s charcuterie made with meat from local, wild- or semi-wild native breeds, free to indulge in their natural behavior, who eat a varied diet of wild roots, green fodder, grain, barley, protein-packed legumes… on a farm that cares about animal well-being we get natural charcuterie, produced using only natural preservatives like salt, pepper, chili pepper, spices and smoke, and without the use of nitrites and nitrates.

On the other side of the coin there are industrialized farms where the animals are confined in cramped spaces, unable to move, play or explore. Their diet includes urea, silage, GM feed which facilitate their rapid (and unnaturally large) growth, as well as antibiotics, hormones, artificial stimulants. The products made with the meat of these sorry animals will then include starters, artificial colorants and preservatives, thickeners, caseinates, nitrites and nitrates which preserve the meat from microbial contamination and “improve” its consistency and appearance.

The conference: Sustainable Farming and Sustainable Consumption – September 18

At Cheese 2023, we discuss how to rethink the current system of meat production and consumption, taking a dual approach. On one hand, reducing meat consumption and rediscovering the cultivation and consumption of legumes, which are excellent for our health and the soil, providing high-quality and affordable protein. On the other hand, we focus on sustainable livestock farming that emphasizes a balance between animals and land, soil fertility, animal welfare, protection of pasture biodiversity, care for mountain areas, and regeneration of lowland areas.

What environmental impacts do these two different systems have? Can animal well-being make a difference to the taste of the meat? And what should we keep in mind in order to look after our own health?

Better, cleaner, healthier

As you can see, there are many questions on the table. In terms of taste, a fairly clear answer can be found in two Taste Workshops at this edition of Cheese.

Pigs out! Alternative cured meats – September 17

A tour of alternative cured meats, those produced not from the classic pig but from other animal species that play a fundamental role: promoting pastoralism and marginal areas while providing an additional source of income to cheese producers.

Prosciutto and wine from forests and pastures – September 18

The biodiversity of meadows and pastures not only gives us extraordinary cheeses but also influences the quality of meats from animals raised outdoors, roaming freely and feasting on what the forests provide. Experience it firsthand in this workshop dedicated to ham, showcasing some of its finest expressions, all derived from the forests.

Natural charcuterie at the Market

At the Market of Cheese you can find a space dedicated to natural cured meats, selected according to the guidelines that Slow Food has developed in collaboration with experts and technicians.

And that’s not all!

As well as natural cured meats, at Cheese 2023, there’s an important space in the Taste Workshops reserved for recipes based on sheep and goat meats, produced from local breeds raised on pastures. They are cooked by the chefs of the Slow Food Alliance and Osterie d’Italia, who are committed to promoting environmentally respectful farming through their cuisine and supporting the work of those who care for the soil, pasture biodiversity, animals, and the landscape.

Two events of particular interest on this topic are:

  • On September 15 we explore the Pastures of Abruzzo with the Osteria Zenobi and the agritourism La porta dei parchi, from cheese to sheep meat: traditional pastoral products of this region.
  • On September 16 Manila Bruno, a young cook from the Vignola agritouism, brings products from the Lucanian Apennines to the table.
  • On September 17 we’re by the side of Romagna, with Pietro Basile of the Osteria di Savignano and Giorgio Clementi of the Osteria dei Frati in Roncofreddo, who present their interpretations of the Romagna black pig.
  • On September 18 we discover the cheeses, sheep and pastures of Friuli and Carinthia with cooks of the Slow Food Alliance in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Carinthia, focusing on two native breeds of sheep: the Carsolina and the Plezzana.

by the Editors, [email protected]

Cheese 2023 is organized by Slow Food and the City of Bra from September 15-18. See you there! #Cheese2023

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