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Italian Food And Quality

Apr 24, 2008
The main reason for the popularity of Italian food is probably its taste that pleases all cultures.

Another one could be the quality of its ingredients. A good Italian dish depends directly on the freshness and genuinity of its ingredients.

During the present times, it is important to preserve quality standards to avoid a quality loss while looking for convenience in international markets.

Quality Brands

To protect the originality of some typical products and processes, the European Union created the quality brands PDO (Protected designation of origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication).

The PDO protects both the origin of the raw material and the typical production process. The PGI protects the typical process, allowing the raw material to come from other parts.

The weak ring is the low knowledge people have about these brands. They are created to foster the typical products, benefiting the customers, as they distinguish the real typical products from the common ones that are maybe sold as an equal quality product. Some researches showed that the number of people who knows about these brands is still a minor part of the customers.

The most known example regards the parmesan cheese. Most of the customers know parmesan as a type of Italian cheese. How many of these customers know about the sentence from European Union stating that Parmesan is the cheese produced in a determined region of Italy, under the rules of Parmigiano Reggiano consortium?

Only this cheese can be called Parmigiano or parmesan. The other ones, produced all around the world (this sentence regarded a german cheese) cannot use this name. If they do so, they are doing it unproperly.

Typical food quality and Tourism

This example shows the importance of preserving the food culture. Otherwise, in a few years, in this globalization environment, we were going to eat the same things everywhere, losing this important culture factor that is made of typical processes and products.

When we travel, we do not go visiting museums or monuments only... each place carries its culture also concerning food.

Studies show that the number of tourists that consider the food as an important factor while choosing a destination is growing. A relevant number wants to experience it visiting wineries, agritourist sites and "touching with hand" the process of producing typical products. Often also buying local products to take home part of that experience lived in that specific territory.

Hunger and quality

Quality is for comfortable people. It should not be like this, but it is. People is able to look for quality when is not hungry. Talk about quality brands and typical products has sense when people is already replete, and have the possibilities to choose.

This fact doesn't mean quality shoudn't be present in every product, but it means that look for a special extra virgin olive oil has sense for someone who already uses and know what an extra virgin olive oil is.

This may be a risk for poor civilizations that may loose their typical process while looking for cheaper food. They may buy from the outside more convenient food rather than evaluating their own typical processes, that may cost more and give less harvest.

Quantity x quality

The process of obtaining smaller harvests began with a huge production of butter in the 70's, that was storaged in European warehouses. In a world where there is still people who die for hunger, such economic measure to avoid the prices decrease isn't correct. So, what shoud be done to avoid this inconvenient problem (too much food stored)? Produce less! The biologic products were born then to fulfill this need: smaller harvests using less chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The process continued and people began to notice that "less is better". Typical products with small outputs began to be considered specialties. If a kind of olive tree gives less harvest, their product is a niche product.

But how a common customer can notice this difference? Through the quality brands. It's a powerful tool for quality food lovers.

A unique product has no need of a quality brand. Some special brands of balsamic vinegar are sold by more than 2000 US dollars per litre. These are unique products by themselves, as a Ferrari is between machines.

But regarding the good products that can be confused with similar in appearance, the quality brand is necessary and allows the gourmets to buy and enjoy special food that continue to be produced as they used to be, respecting the local traditions and allowing us to live in a global world that preserve the differences cultures need to keep the history alive.
About the Author
Ana Maria da Costa, economist and enogastronomic expert, lives in Italy since 1983 and shows Italian food culture from the inside, with tips and useful info in her website Italian food
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