Natural charcuterie: native breeds, wild breeding, no nitrites

22 June 2022

If you’ve followed Slow Food for a while, you’ll know we fly the flag for natural products: be it cheese, bread, wine or charcuterie.

This is especially true at Terra Madre, in view of this year’s edition and its theme of regeneration. Because natural products are a perfect example of regeneration.

But what is natural charcuterie, exactly?

The origins of charcuterie

Let’s go back to the origins of it all: the animals breeds and the practices used by the farmers.

On the one hand there is charcuterie made with meat from local breeds raised wild or semi-wild, animals that are 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 respects their welfare. This charcuterie is produce using only natural preservatives like salt, pepper, chili pepper, spices and smoke, and without the use of nitrites and nitrates.

On the other hand there are industrial farms, where animals are often confined in small spaces, with little or no ability to move, play or explore. Their diet contains urea, silage, GMOs that promote faster and unnatural levels of growth, as well as antibiotics, hormones and artificial stimulants. The charcuterie made from their meat is produced using starter cultures, artificial colors, preservatives, caseinates, thickeners, nitrites and nitrates that preserve the meat from microbial contamination but also improve its consistency and appearance.

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, healthier, fairer

There are lots of questions on our plate, and we’ll try to answer those questions through three Taste Workshops at Terra Madre.

Thursday, September 22: Natural charcuterie from Southern Italy

Martina Franca Capocollo, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Slow Food Archive

In this Taste Workshop you’ll explore the differences between a variety of artisanally-cured meats from Slow Food Presidia, all of which are made with paprika and other spices both for flavor and as a natural preservative:

Friday, September 23: Prosciutto, bread and Franciacorta

Prosciutto varies from region to region, and are often made using meat from native pig breeds. In this Taste Workshop we propose regional, small-scale specialty prosciutto that are normally hard to find outside their local areas.

  • we begin with the prosciutto crudo of the Nebrodi Black Pig from Sicily (Slow Food Presidium)
  • we continue with prosciutto from the Black Calabrian Pig, an Ark of Taste product
  • from Tuscany we taste the prosciutto crudo of the Macchiaiola Black Pig of Maremma
  • we end our journey with one of the noblest Italian cured meat products, the Culatello di Zibello of Emilia Romagna.

Sunday, September 25: Beyond the bacon: cured meats from other animals

Cornigliese Sheep, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Luca Gilli

Charcuterie isn’t just made with meat from pigs, as we well know. But what we often don’t know why producers choose to make certain cured meats in the way they do, and the meaning of natural charcuterie. Cured meats made with beef, sheep or goat meat are often made to make pastoralism more profitable in marginal areas, adding an extra income stream beyond dairy products. In this workshop we’ll taste:

Slow Grains: good, clean and fair bread

All the bread accompanying the charcuterie in these Workshops comes from producers of the Slow Grains network, made up of producers and bakers from across the world who make bread and other bakery products using local grain varieties. These farmers safeguard seeds, produce their grain in a sustainable manner, and use stone milling to produce their flour.

by Silvia Ceriani,

Cover image: Nebrodi Black Pig, Slow Food Presidium. Photo: Alberto Peroli

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is in Parco Dora, Turin, from September 22-26, 2022, with over 600 exhibitors and a series of workshops, conferences and tastings that show how we can regenerate our planet through food. #TerraMadre2022 is a Slow Food event.

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