Beginning on May 28, a four-decades-old ban — in effect after a series of European livestock diseases — on the import of many Italian salumi will be lifted by the USDA, increasing the number and variety of salumi in U.S. markets and restaurants.
Glenn Collins with the New York Times points out that according to Italy’s Association of Meat and Cold Cuts Producers, only half of Italy’s wide variety of cold cuts are approved for import into the United States.
“Up until now, we could only export seasoned ham, for example, like Parma and San Daniele, and cooked ham or mortadella,” said Davide Calderone, the association’s director.
“We will soon be able to export pancetta, salami, coppa — potentially all the Italian cold cuts with no exception,” he added, estimating that this could mean an increase of $9 million to $13 million a year in Italian cold cuts exported to the United States, now put at $90 million.
The salumi ban will be relaxed in the regions of Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piemonte, and the provinces of Trento and Bolzano, all in the north.
Calderone said that those regions include some of the country’s most productive slaughterhouses, which will now be able to gain United States certification. “Americans will finally enjoy ‘antipasto all’Italiana’ at its fullest extent,” he said.
The Italian regions mentioned above produce some of the best salami in the world. Some cured pork products still on the USDA-restricted list is in the region of Tuscany, where they make wild boar sausages and finocchiona of Siena, a fennel-flavored salami.
Joseph Bastianich, an owner of the Eataly grocery stores in the United States says Americans have been eating bad salami forever, but now the end is near. “It could open up a new world of Italian salami to the US.”
Although the USDA claims there is a reduction in the threat of swine vesicular disease, Marc Buzzio, the president of Salumeria Biellese, a New Jersey producer of artisanal salamis and charcuterie products, says Italian producers will still have to meet USDA guidelines for listeria, salmonella and E. coli.
“Only certain processing plants in Italy meet the USDA guidelines, and those are associated with the larger producers. He added that more cold cuts will be coming in, but the question is, will it be a better product than that of artisanal producers in the United States?
Buzzio estimates certification for Italian producers will cost as much as $100,000, a price beyond many artisanal producers, he said.
George Faison, a partner at DeBragga and Spitler, a New Jersey-based meat and poultry retailer, acknowledged that the Italian regions specified by the Agriculture Department produce some of the best salami in the world, but he said that the American importation standards “will determine the quality of what comes over from Italy.”
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli notes that for centuries, Italians have been making some of the highest-quality cured meats in Europe, such as sopressata, a slow-cured dried pork, similar in appearance to salami; pancetta, bacon made from the pork belly, but unlike the American variety, which is smoked, Italian pancetta is cured in salt and spices; coppa or capocollo, made from pork shoulder or neck and seasoned with wine, salt and spice.
Poggioli claims every Italian region and province, and even many towns have their own distinctive salumi, many of them celebrated in weeklong folk festivals.
“There are fans of Coppa Piacentina or those who swear by Coppa di Parma; there’s an infinite variety of salamis — from Brianza, Vicenza, Cremona and many more, spiced with garlic, juniper and myrtle berries, fennel and red wine.”
Salame di Felino, named after the small town of the same name near Parma, originated in the Middle Ages. Poggioli says the oldest pictorial representation is found in the Parma Baptistery, where one can see two salamis draped over a saucepan.
Poggioli insists what cured meat lovers are most eagerly desirous of is the king of Italian salumi: culatello, a product of the flatlands of Zibello and neighboring towns near Parma.
Culatello dates back at least to the 15th century. It’s made with the muscular part of the hind leg of pigs born, raised and slaughtered in the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy regions.