Posted by: lisetta | January 30, 2010

M**Bun/McItaly

Hooked in to an interesting story this evening from Mark Bittman’s blog: McDonald’s has introduced hamburgers made from 100% Italian food products in its Italian stores. They did it in cooperation with the Italian government, which hopes the “McItaly” concept will go global and lead to increased export revenue.

I for one hope the effort fails big time. I can think of nothing more dangerous to the quality and diversity of the Italian culinary landscape than the subsidized industrialization of its food supply. While travelling there last month, I learned of a related story regarding McDonald’s.

In Rivoli, Carla’s hometown, a local ‘hamburgheria’ opened up last year, serving “Slow Fastfood”, that is, fast food made with local ingredients showcasing the region’s culinary history (meat that the owner’s family raised, toma cheese, artisan bread, Piemontese wines, etc.).

Originally named Mac Bün, which means something like “only good” in the local dialect, the shop was threatened with a lawsuit by McDonald’s and changed its written name to M**Bün to avoid litigation. No matter. The threat brought M**Bün so much publicity and subsequent business that they are already planning to open more shops in the region. We didn’t get a chance to eat there, but Carla, Alberto and Simona assured me that it’s well worth a future visit.

While McDonald’s can trademark its name to thwart its genuine competition, I find it most curious to find it emanating the very “locavore” culture it will likely decimate if its McItaly campaign takes off.  Is their “locavore” marketing strategy like the oil companies calling themselves green, or the insurance industry branding themselves “on your side”?

The sustainability of McDonald’s business model depends on factory farming and industrialized food production: practices which will eventually lead to externalized costs to public health and the environment. What the Italian government and a few connected companies gain today will likely cost the public much more in the near future.

Shouldn’t the Italian government instead be promoting Italian entrepreneurs seeking to grow the more sustainable Slow Foods concepts? I wonder what, if anything, Italian farmers and family-owned food producers are saying about this story?

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