You know that sinking feeling you get when you make a huge effort to do something, only to realize that it was all for naught? That’s how I feel about food shopping lately. Why? Because it came to my attention that many food labels don’t mean much at all, or at the very least don’t mean what you think they mean. There is one label that always piqued my curiosity, “Made in Italy.” It conjured up so many lovely images in my imagination, but I had to wonder how true it really was. Is this food actually coming from Italian farms and producers? Or was it made in Italy the way I am “made in Italy?” By which I mean I have Italian roots, but was technically “made” in Bali (TMI, parents!) and born and raised, well, not in Italy. I do have an Italian passport, though, and my Italian family balks and raises up their hand like this when I call myself an American, so am I Italian? What warrants the label “Made in Italy,” anyway? What does it actually mean?
Lucky for me, Refinery29 had the same question, so we decided to jump on a plane to Italy and investigate the truth behind the label. A week-long trip of tracing food products, like prosciutto, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella to their sources made us realize that not only are these products grown, reared, produced, and exported from Italy, but many of the farmers and food artisans employ the same exact methods of production that their ancestors did generations ago. Some food producers even believe that hiring husband-and-wife teams is the only way to produce a really excellent product, because they have an unspoken understanding and sense of cooperation – AMAZING! The challenge for the Italian food industry has been adapting to a global demand for their products without compromising on quality or technique — and that’s no easy feat. Check out our series on all your favorite Italian food products, where they really come from, and the people behind them. And next time you’re at the store, confused and disoriented as hell by all the labels you see, rest assured that the “Made in Italy” seal really means something about the quality of the food and the methods employed to make it.