Food safety is a European Union priority, it is a distinctive trait of European meat, which is systematically subjected to an articulated network of controls by public authorities at all levels of the supply chain. Unlike other continents, in Europe the use of all types of hormones has been banned since 1981. The use of these substances is therefore illegal and punishable by law. Furthermore, the meat we eat does not contain antibiotic residues. Their use in breeding is in fact regulated in the choice of active ingredients, in the treatment cycles and in strict compliance with withdrawal times, i.e. the time required for the drug to be disposed of before the animal can be fit for consumption. Since July 2020, the indication of origin is mandatory in Italy for processed products such as hams and cured meats (while for fresh meat the declaration of origin has been regulated at EU level since 2014) to ensure maximum transparency of information to the consumer.
A controlled and aware supply chain
Since the mid-1990s, the European Union has created a unique, innovative and transparent policy on hygiene that has transferred the primary responsibility for food safety along the entire food chain to operators in the sector. From a production point of view, the pig production chain is quite complex, due to the large number of operators involved both in the agricultural phase and in the subsequent industrial process of transformation and then of distribution and finally of consumption.
The main players are:
they take care of livestock, to be used for fattening, for the production of both meat for sale for fresh consumption and for the production of cured meats and preparations. In Italy, production facilities tend to take on the connotation of large, highly specialized companies or, on the contrary, of small and very small farms. There is the greatest number of large farms in Northern Italy, with driven specialization and strong roots in the area. On the other hand, there are smaller farms in the central and southern areas of the country.
they procure heads directly, from farms or through intermediaries, especially in the case of smaller companies. The sector has shown a trend towards concentration, structural reorganization and streamlining of business, primarily following a series of EU directives aimed at restructuring and modernizing meat production, processing and storage units. In addition, the evolution of the market has led operators to make the facilities more productive and to qualify their product, also through the use of certifications. In some cases, the industrial facilities are equipped with the workshops necessary for subsequent processing, thus integrating more phases.
HAM AND SALAMI FACILITIES
they are more fragmented than the first processing plants; they can be integrated with them, or they can constitute the downline phase of the supply chain. In this context, the product introduced to the circuit of protected PDO-PGI products quantitatively represents approximately 50% of national production. In many cases, these are realities that grew from the evolution of small, family-run, artisan meat processing workshops, which over the decades have become real businesses, even large ones. The manufacturing character is always very present, just as it is still very frequent, in Europe and even more in Italy, finding companies that bear the name of their founders, under the leadership of family members through the generations. These are companies deeply rooted in their areas, which in their products’ recipes also express production wisdom and traditional taste, combined with a good dose of technological innovation.
is the last link in the supply chain. It is characterized by a greater and growing incidence of large-scale distribution – especially in the northern areas of the country – with respect to traditional retail, whose supplies are linked to intermediaries and wholesalers. Finally, Re.Ca. shows a very diversified type of supply, being able to buy directly from processing companies, large retailers or wholesalers.
Within the supply chain, animal feed companies play a non-marginal role, in particular because those that operate vertical integration have significantly increased by supplying fattening animals, feed and health devices to third parties, then withdrawing the animal ready for slaughter. (Source Mipaaf – Programme guidelines for a pig sector plan).