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Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Narrative Labels

Slow Food’s Narrative Labels

Say it on the Label!

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

The quality of a food product is often associated with physical and chemical analyses made by tasting panels, or in any case is always based on measurable and definable parameters. This technical approach, however, does not take into consideration the story that lies behind a product, developed over centuries of history.


The conventional approach to food analysis and information does not allow us to understand if a food has been produced in a way that respects the environment, animals and social justice/workers' rights. In fact, communication is often purposefully misleading, vaguely conjuring up rural worlds full of poetry, supposedly authentic techniques and ambiguous references to traditional flavors. The evocative images often bear little relationship to the actual characteristics of the products being marketed.


This is clear from the lists of additives and unfamiliar ingredients commonly found on the labels of products we put in our shopping carts, light years away from the advertising images and slogans. Michael Pollan's famous advice should put us on guard against these additives.


Often it is the most natural products that end up being penalized. Their labels are perfectly legal but brief, and do not do justice to the extraordinary and genuinely artisanal cheeses, meats or sweets to which they are attached. They certainly don't give us much information about who they were produced by.


So when appeals are made to consumers to read the labels before buying, the lack of authentic in-depth information that would allow a more conscious choice is hard to find.


According to Slow Food, ascertaining the quality of a food product begins with its story, starting with its place of origin: where a species was domesticated or diversified, where a variety or a breed adapted or evolved naturally, where a cultivation or processing technique was first developed. The origin, however, is not sufficient. Information should also be provided about the characteristics of the environment and the place, about processing techniques, storage and marketing methods, environmental sustainability and, of course, sensory and nutritional properties.


Highlighting the authentic character of a product through in-depth information is the only way to restore its true value, thus differentiating it from the mass of goods with labels that are reticent when it comes to fundamental questions, and giving it a competitive edge.


Many Presidia have therefore adopted a system of "back-labeling", which they use together with the legally required label. The back label contains more information and details about the varieties or breeds used in the Presidia, cultivation techniques, processing, place of origin, animal welfare and how to store and serve the product.


To realize this project, Slow Food has drawn on the assistance of the Turin Chamber of Commerce Laboratory, which has been collaborating for several years with the Slow Food Foundation, carrying out analyses and consultancies on Presidia in Italy and around the world.


Dowload the Slow Food Presidia Narrative Label: Wild Palm Oil (Guinea Bissau), Mananara Vanilla (Madagascar), Ljubitovica Sarak Garlic (Croatia) and Pozegaca Plum Slatko (Bosnia-Herzegovina).


You can download here the position paper on Narrative Label in:






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