Traditional production of deli meats

A historical tradition from the artisan to industry

If, in years gone by, the processing of pork into valued deli meats was the game of skilled artisans, custodians of an art perfected through the generations and passed down from father to son, today, no matter how much it is still present in limited family environments, the artisan reality has progressively developed into a deli meats industry, considering the culture from which it derives. With respect for tradition and often also bound by the presence of strict production specifications that characterise PDO and PGI deli meats, the industrial world has known how to make the best of the margins of improvement and the technological and distribution challenges, where possible increasing quality and safety, in line with the requirements of modern lifestyles. Even if the most recent technologies have favoured the appearance of some new products on the market, most of the production and relative consumption of deli meats in Italy is relevant to those that can be defined as ‘traditional’.

Over the past ten years, the Italian deli meats industry has invested in the research and development of processing procedures, in order to satisfy high qualitative standards with respect to deep-rooted traditions.

Developed to respond to the necessity to preserve a foodstuff such as meat, important from a nutritional point of view and which in the past was difficult to find and easily perishable, the art of the Italian deli meats industry is made up mainly of products prepared though salting and drying, not however without exceptions, such as the cooked products (e.g. prosciutto cotto, mortadella, zampone and cotechino) and speck. Elsewhere, and especially in Mainland Europe, cooking, smoking or fermentation procedures in humid environments are widespread: these diversities are easily attributed to differences of a geographical, meteorological and cultural nature.
In spite of the selection and control of the raw materials used, the technical aspect linked to the recipe and the production procedures used play an unquestionable part in the production of quality deli meats. Without a doubt, this must be taken into consideration for the final composition of the different products, regarding the organoleptic features and the nutritional values. The different types of products existing in Italy can be essentially grouped into two macrocategories: that regarding matured cured products and that regarding cooked products.