Slow Food is an international organization founded in 1989 by Carlo Petrini. While many people believe that it was founded to oppose fast food, the aims of the organization are actually much different, although members are indeed opposed to fast food on principle. The goal is to oppose fast life, a state brought about through rapid industrialization. Fast life has led to the disappearance of thousands of unique local culinary traditions and varieties of food, because industrialized food is easy to package and sell. Fast life has also led to extreme environmental depredation, and Slow Food aims to counteract fast life, starting with the table, but ultimately moving into other fields of play as well.
There are several primary missions for Slow Food. The first is to produce food which is good, clean, and fair, meaning that it has superb taste, is managed in a sustainable and healthy way, and is harvested in good working conditions. Biodiversity is also an important part of the mission, which has established the Ark of Taste in an attempt to save unique varieties of foods ranging from heritage apples to unique breeds of pig. The organization also works to connect producers and coproducers. The term “coproducer” is an invention of Slow Food; if people inform themselves about the source of their food, are active in their communities, and connect with their food producers, they become coproducers, actively contributing to the process rather than being passive consumers.
To accomplish its goals, the organization has hundreds of local chapters, or convivia, worldwide. Regular meetings are held to talk about issues ranging from raw milk cheese to deforestation, and Slow Food also holds a number of tasting parties to fulfill another aim of the organization: taste education. At these tastings, guests can taste the flavors that the organization is working hard to save, and can experience the different between conventionally produced foods and foods from artisan producers.
Naturally, fast food is in opposition to Slow Food values, which include protecting unique culinary heritage and the environment. But most conventional agriculture is contrary to these ethics as well, because it is highly mechanized, homogeneous food, grown from seeds engineered to perform in a particular and predictable way, using pesticides and herbicides, and harvested by underpaid labor working in dangerous conditions. The organization hopes to educate consumers, get them thinking about where their food comes from, and ultimately reform the way we live, not only at the table, but in all of our actions.