Rob Owen, Creed’s Executive Development Chef, believes that while communicating where you have sourced products and ingredients on the menu is valuable, it is important to get the balance right. Ensuring that your sourcing is backed up by recognised accreditation schemes will ensure traceability too.
The Local Story
“Provenance and ingredient sourcing are hot topics in the food industry as consumers become more interested in the origin of the food they are eating and the story behind it. It’s clear that declaring a dish or an ingredient’s provenance is now entrenched in menu cycles and there is no doubt that it can add value to the offering.
“I believe though that it is important for chefs to use storytelling intelligently – an over the top dish description such as ‘Roast Cotswold white chicken from upper Kemble, Old Walls Farm purple sprouting broccoli with crushed heritage potatoes from Lincolnshire, and hand-picked Evesham asparagus veloute’ can be simplified to read ‘Cotswold white chicken, local purple spouting broccoli, heritage potatoes and asparagus veloute’. The second description still tells a story and credits the consumer with an understanding of local sourcing without being over the top.
“This also begs the question, what do we actually mean by ‘local’? If certain items can be sourced within a 30-40 mile radius of the site then that’s a positive declaration to make on the menu. But with true local suppliers, there will come a cost, as smaller bespoke units are invariably more expensive. It is best to pick a few fantastic local suppliers that have a great back story and focus on those to get your message across rather than trying to promote everyone as ‘local’.
The Importance of Traceability
“The benefit of working with a delivered food wholesaler for all your product requirements including local sourcing is that you can be assured of complete traceability. Just because meat, for example, is billed as ‘local’ or has a farm name attached to it, does not guarantee its quality and this is something of which casual dining caterers should be wary.
“Meat that carries national accreditations supplied by a butcher you trust should influence your purchasing strategies. The Red Tractor Assurance ensures full traceability back to the UK farm where the animal was reared as well as adherence to rigorous food safety guidelines. RSPCA Assured products are also UK traceable and ensure animals have received high standards of care. Quality Standard marks indicate the country of origin of both beef and lamb so meats carrying the mark have a fully assured supply chain and undergo a strict selection process to ensure quality”.
“Caterers should choose a wholesaler who promotes the Food for Life Catering Supplier Accreditation from the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark Scheme which means that the wholesaler is committed to helping catering businesses improve their food quality, sourcing practices and environmental sustainability. It also means they can offer and supply products, which are accredited as organic, free range, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Farm Assured, Red Tractor, Fairtrade and so on.
“As far as fish and seafood are concerned, look for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable seafood. The MSC is an international non-profit organisation addressing the problem of unsustainable fishing, and safeguarding seafood supplies for the future.
“The MSC’s certification and ecolabelling programme enables everybody to play a part in securing a healthy future for our oceans. Casual dining operators should choose a food wholesaler who promotes MSC certified sustainable seafood and chooses to supply seafood products displaying the blue fish label; which ensures the fish can be traced back to a sustainable source”.