What does it mean, to stray from the beaten path? What can we learn from the old peasant maxim, that “no grass grows on the beaten path”? Yury Stolpovskij, President of Slow Food Russia, explains the phrase’s relevance to the discussion of animal breed varieties.
The “beaten path” in this instance is represented by the industrial breed, the most widespread in the world. They’re normally more productive, and easy to raise. But they’re also fragile, because they haven’t adapted to all the different territorial contexts in which they’re now raised. Imagine, for example, a Friesian cow high up in the mountains: they’re not meant to live up there!
Native breeds represent the path less traveled, and the rediscovery of different local areas and their natural wealth. In Russia there are lots of cow and sheep breeds that have been rediscovered and that are now protected, but the road ahead is long. State support is needed, as well as regulatory framework and greater public awareness of the value of these breeds. The importance of straying from the well-beaten path of industrialized agriculture, in short.
If we save a breed, and we work it, consuming its products, we make it a living heritage, rather than just a note in a book. It’s crucial that we do this for the future of food.
Yury Stolpovskij is a research professor in biology, scientific Vice-Director and Head of the Department of Comparative Animal Genetics at the Vavilov Institute of Genetics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and member of the Council of Experts a the Russian Science Foundation. He’s authored over 150 papers and 7 monographs on nature conservation. He’s an expert on the conservation of genetic resources in domesticated animal breeds and the author of a series of conferences on the management of agro-biodiversity and the development of local food communities.
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