Slow Food

slow food


Slow Food is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. Promoted as an alternative to fast food, it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement, and has since expanded globally. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.

Slow Food began in Italy with the founding of its forerunner organization, Arcigola, in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. In 1989, the founding Manifesto of the international Slow Food movement was signed in Paris by delegates from 15 countries. This was done not so much a protest against the restaurant chain as a protest against big international business interests. The movement has expanded to include chapters in over 150 countries.

All totaled, 800 local convivia chapters exist. 360 convivia in Italy ā€” to which the name ‘condotta’ (singular) / ‘condotte’ (plural) applies ā€” are composed of 35,000 members, along with 450 other regional chapters around the world. The organizational structure is decentralized: each convivium has a leader who is responsible for promoting local artisans, local farmers, and local flavors through regional events such as Taste Workshops, wine tastings, and farmers’ markets.

Offices have been opened in Switzerland (1995), Germany (1998), New York City (2000), France (2003), Japan (2005), and most recently in the United Kingdom and Chile. The head offices are located in Bra, near the famous city of Turin, northern Italy. Numerous publications are put out by the organization, in several languages. In the US, ‘the Snail’ is the quarterly of choice, while Slow Food puts out literature in several other European nations. Recent efforts at publicity include the world’s largest food and wine fair, the ‘Salone del Gusto’ in Turin, a biennial cheese fair in Bra called ‘Cheese,’ the Genoan fish festival called ‘SlowFish,’ and Turin’s Terra Madre (‘Mother Earth’) world meeting of food communities.

The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including: forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties in cooperation with local food systems; developing an ‘Ark of Taste’ for each ecoregion, where local culinary traditions and foods are celebrated; preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation; organizing small-scale processing (including facilities for slaughtering and short run products); organizing celebrations of local cuisine within regions (for example, the ‘Feast of Fields’ held in some cities in Canada); promoting ‘taste education’; educating consumers about the risks of fast food; educating citizens about the drawbacks of commercial agribusiness and factory farms; educating citizens about the risks of monoculture (growing a single crop over a wide area and for a large number of consecutive years) and reliance on too few genomes or varieties; developing various political programs to preserve family farms; lobbying for the inclusion of organic farming concerns within agricultural policy; lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering; lobbying against the use of pesticides; teaching gardening skills to students and prisoners; and encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces.

Founder and President Carlo Petrini, believes ‘everyone has the right to good, clean and fair food.’ ‘Good,’ meaning a high quality product with a flavorful taste; ‘clean,’ meaning the naturalness in the way the product was produced and transported; and ‘fair,’ meaning adequate pricing and treatment for both the consumers and producers.

From time to time, Slow Food intervenes directly in market transactions; for example, Slow Food was able to preserve four varieties of native American turkey by ordering 4,000 of their eggs and commissioning their raising and slaughtering and delivery to market.


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