Some of the centuries-old methods used by human for preserving the meat from rapid decay is salting, pickling, and drying. Italy has a long tradition of producing a variety of cured meats since ancient times. Some of the popular cured meats of Italy are cattle meat, pork meat and rabbit meat of which the production of cured pork meat is the most common one. Cured meat is popular as salumi in the Italian language. It plays a significant role in the first course of Italian cuisine i.e. antipasto which normally consists of sliced cured meats and vegetables along with some cheese. It also finds a special place in the Chinese cuisine as lawei in the months of winter in almost all hot dishes. In French cuisine too, cured meat deserves a special mention as a vital French appetizer.
The Leading Exporters
Although Italy is a top exporter of salted, pickled and dried meats, it is not self-sufficient in the production and import of both meat and livestock. However, its dependence on raw meat and livestock from other countries is essential to reduce to experience more profits. The majority of its export is to USA and Japan among the non-European nations. It gets a major chunk of its meat and livestock supply from Netherlands and Germany. In Italy, lot of emphasis is given on maintaining a robust sanitation line while processing meat for curing keeping in view the changing food habits of Italians. The best part of the entire process is that Italians use only natural ingredients in curing meat, and any use of nitrates or nitrites is completely avoided. However, many Italians are now turning vegetarians in significant numbers expressing food safety issues and animal rights in spite of the high degree of hygiene standards maintained by Italian meat processors. The other two world leaders in terms of export of cured meat are Netherland and Spain. Netherland mainly exports cured horsemeat to a large number of European and Non-European nations, while Spain mainly exports cured ham to other countries including Australia and China. Its export of cured hams has grown consistently over the years due to its unique delicacy and its processing as per the European quality standards.
Consumer Perception Shaping Italian Meat Export
Numerous studies have stated that prolonged consumption of cured meat can lead to weight gain and other diseases including cancer. Such meat is often high in salt, which may lead to hypertension. It is also high in cholesterol because of which heath conscious people are now minimizing their intake of cured meat or are completely avoiding any kind of meat products by turning into vegetarians. Therefore, it is high time that the Italian meat-curing industry comes up with new ways to lure their consumers to drive the market for the same in the domestic front as well as overseas. The rising voice of animal right activists to stop import and export of meat products between continents is also a major concern for the top exporters of cured meat.