A network of 2,000 food communities have rejected the fast food culture, practising small-scale and sustainable production of quality foods.
Slow Food UK was launched in 2006, attracting a small following. It has now moved from Ludlow into London’s Covent Garden, from where it can more easily reach out to the media, government and other food policy makers.
The Slow Food Dorset group, with around 90 members, has helped protect and promote a high-quality meat from Portland sheep and artisan Somerset cheddar cheese – picture opposite, attribution: I, J.P. Lon.
In Cornwall, the local group has supported Cornish Pilchards and the Fal oyster fishery, the only stock of native oysters fished entirely by man and wind power and now threatened with extinction.
There has been a campaign in the Midlands to save Three Counties Perry, made with the fermented juice of perry pears and produced and consumed almost exclusively in the three counties area of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.
Other campaigns have supported foods from the highly-nutritious bere flour made from a distinct Scottish barley and used in traditional soft rolls of Orkney to traditionally grown Jersey Royal potatoes.
The Slow Food’s UK Ark of Taste; Forgotten Foods – part of the International Ark of Taste network – collects small-scale quality produce threatened by industrial agriculture and often at risk of extinction. In the UK, Ark products include Formby Asparagus, Lyth Valley Damsons, York Ham, Whey Butter, unpasteurised Wensleydale, Morecambe Bay Shrimps, Kentish Cobnuts, Colchester Native Oysters, Three Counties Perry and Cheshire Cheese.
The Scottish Farmer reports that Shetland lamb has now been added to this list of high quality foods saved from the pressures of mass-market production.
Many excellent traditional Scottish foods are dying out as producers opt for profit and convenience over local tradition and – to stop that happening to Shetland lamb – the Scottish Crofting Federation nominated it for ‘Ark of Taste’ status.
Chair of the Scottish Crofting Federation Patrick Krause said: “Shetland lambs are a small, hardy breed naturally adapted to thrive in the harsh island conditions. As the breed is almost half the size of commercial lambs the number of producers on Shetland who are breeding pure Shetland sheep has been in decline for a number of years. Commercially, it’s very difficult for farmers to see the value of rearing traditional breeds.”
Encouraging restaurants to put “under threat” foods on their menus
Slow Food UK is campaigning through its Chef Alliance Programme to encourage restaurants to put “under threat” foods on their menus. Cat Gazzoli of Slow Food UK says: “Restaurants are key to helping us preserve our food heritage—it is a market that a small scale producer can readily supply. Slow Food’s Forgotten Foods programme, is about bringing these foods back to the fore. We are in a moment when consumers are interested in rediscovering our culinary traditions.”