Slow Meat 2015 Brings Everyone to the Table to Fix the Industrial Meat System

09 Jun 2015

A vegan, a butcher and a cow walk into a room… It’s not the start of a bad joke, but one of the taglines of Slow Meat, the most recent Slow Food event that took place from June 3 – 6 in Denver, USA.

With the participation of over 200 delegates from nearly a dozen countries around the world, the second edition of Slow Meat aimed to bring attention to the problems surrounding cheap, industrial meat production, which is harmful to the Earth, to animals and to human health. This wide range of voices represented the diversity of the global Slow Food community itself, and confirmed Slow Food as a unique association that brings people together despite geographic, socio-economic and linguistic differences.

The past days have been a space for open conversations and meetings between individuals involved in every step of meat production, sale and consumption: from conservation ecologists with specialized knowledge of grasslands management like Gary Nabhan, an contracted factory farmers seeking to change the system from the inside out like Craig Watts, to numerous independent butchers from around the world working to promote small-scale farmers and educate consumers. Slow Meat is more than any typical conference; it is a meeting of minds actively challenging today’s flawed systems of producing and consuming meat. And it’s one of the few places where a vegetarian rancher (like Nicolette Hahn Niman) is not considered an oxymoron. By giving a platform to such a wide variety of voices, Slow Food is inviting the true collaborators of the food movement to the table to create a campaign that is inclusive and informed.

American_Plains_Bison-1024x768The event began with tours of the Denver area to see the American Plains Bison and learn about their role in holistic grasslands management, as well as visits to area farms raising Ark of Taste livestock breeds and independent butchers who bring this local meat to market. Friday’s breakout sessions addressed both the practical issues and the cultural importance of many aspects of meat production centered on the general themes of cattle, pork and chicken. An interactive bulletin board allowed participants to vote for what they considered the most pressing issues that need to be addressed to target specific areas of meat production and consumption.

The final morning of the event culminated in a brainstorming session in which delegates worked together to create action plans to implement over the next 24 months on subjects ranging from bringing better quality, more sustainably raised meats to sports stadiums and event caterers, to developing materials that Slow Food members around the world can use to petition change from everyone; from supermarkets and politicians, to incorporating the Slow Meat campaign’s objectives into Slow Food’s future international events and the association’s overall manifesto.

Slow_Food_Usa_Slow_MeatThe last day of Slow Meat reminded us of what Slow Food does best: mixing the pleasure of food with responsibility. Visitors could partake in local street food and international dishes prepared at the Terra Madre kitchen, where representatives from around the United States, South Africa and Mexico prepared specialties with ethically sourced ingredients. At the same time, at the speakers’ tent next door, the crowd engaged in a question and answer session with Dr. Temple Grandin, renowned animal behavior scientist and arguably the most influential person of the past forty years advocating for the humane treatment of animals at slaughterhouses of all sizes.

Through the success of this year’s event, Slow Meat has established itself as a place where conflicting viewpoints give way to collaboration and increased understanding. Delegates came away with a renewed goal of working together using the varied resources and talents of the international Slow Food network to enact real change in our food system to advocate for better meat for all. You can follow campaign updates on the Slow Meat website as they develop and as we look ahead to Slow Meat 2017!

by Sara Silvestri

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