Italy's agriculture minister is defending his sponsorship of McDonald's new all-Italian burger amid criticism that he is selling out to a multinational and sacrificing Italy's culinary reputation in the process.

Minister Luca Zaia has argued that McDonald's new McItaly burger — using all Italian beef, Asiago cheese and artichoke spread — will pump euro3.5 million ($4.9 million) more a month into the pockets of Italian farmers grappling with tough economic times.

But for a country that gave birth to the Slow Food movement a quarter-century ago and prides itself on its varied and healthy culinary repertoire, Zaia's enthusiastic support of McDonald's has been hard to swallow.