Slow Food Canada’s Ark of Taste reflects Canada’s vast, diverse landscape of peoples and foods. The Ark of Taste is an international catalog of foods that are threatened by industrial agriculture, the standardization and large-scale distribution of global food markets, and environmental degradation. Since 1996, more than 800 products from over 50 countries have been added to the International Ark of Taste. To qualify for the Ark of Taste, food products must meet five criteria:
- They must be of distinctive quality in terms of taste, with taste defined in the context of local traditions and uses
- Linked to the memory and identity of a group of people
- Environmentally, socio-economically, and historically linked to a specific region, locality, ethnicity or traditional production practice
- Produced in limited quantities, by farms or by small-scale processing companies in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner
- At risk of extinction either biologically or as a culinary tradition
The Canadian Ark of Taste includes heritage breed animals such as the Canadienne cow, the Chantecler chicken, and the Tamworth pig. The Montreal melon and the Nova Scotia Gravenstein apple also take pride of place along with Tancook Island Sauerkraut. Together with Slow Food, dedicated farmers, millers, researchers and bakers have brought Red Fife wheat back from the brink of disappearance. Today Red Fife is grown from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and used by artisan bakers across the country.
Particularly important for the Canadian Ark are foods from First Nations diets and cultures. These wild foods reflect not only food’s nutritional aspects but also the great importance of cultural knowledge and landscapes and the passing on of that knowledge. The Saskatoon berry, Miner’s Lettuce, the Nodding Onion, Bay of Fundy Dulse, and the majestic Great Plains Bison are important to various Canadian First Nations food traditions across Canada and are therefore vital additions to the Ark of Taste.