“Sono Dario Cecchini, e ho duecentocinquant’anni (I’m Dario Cecchini, and I’m 250 years old),” joked Dario Cecchini, whom the LA Times calls “the most famous butcher in the world.” Students taking the course on Sustainable Food Production in Italy at the Umbra Institute students laughed at Cecchini’s depiction of the longevity of his family’s butcher business in Panzano in Chianti. The small town in the hills south of Florence is the home of Cecchini, who tries, with his butcher shops and two restaurants, to make meat that’s a little more sustainable. While “local” is the latest fashion in food, Cecchini has a more nuanced view: “We should raise animals where there’s pasture, not necessarily next to our houses. There’s a lot of energy wasted in transporting oats and corn to zero-kilometer cows, more than it would be to transport the meat afterwards. Every animal should have a good life, a death that’s as merciful as possible, and a butcher who knows how to use every scrap.”
Scrap hardly: students, after meeting Cecchini and going on a bracing two-mile hike, sat down to a sumptuous meal. Cecchini draws on peasant tradition–one that saw eating everything, “not just the tenderloin and steaks”–but feels free to reinterpret Tuscan food for today. The course, taught by Professor Zachary Nowak, is one of three that make up the Food Studies Program.