Posts Tagged ‘sustainable food’

I don’t normally post about specific companies and what they are doing in terms of sustainability because it tends to turn into an advertisement, but this latest news from Chipotle combines three of my favorite things: Willie Nelson, animation and sustainable food. So, they get a post (a bit overdue too).

The news is that Chipotle has started a charitable foundation called Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, to help support sustainable food and agriculture organizations. To kick it off they drafted Willie Nelson of all kinds of fame and most notably in this case one of the founders of Farm Aid to sing Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”

Anyway, enjoy the video and song…

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I’m not sure what prompted the sudden surge, but there have been three different reports (one, two, three) published lately on the green awareness of foodservice operators. Two of the reports are from England and the third is from the US. The reports analyzed the perceptions and practices of restaurant owners and managers in regards to sustainability. The reports surveyed a wide range of restaurants from “Mom and Pop” diners to billion dollar multinational franchises and food product manufacturers. The affirming outcome of the studies is that restaurants are very interested in sustainability though they sometimes don’t practice it or know how to practice it. That bodes well for myself and all the suppliers and vendors offering green products, but signifies that we have a challenge ahead of us.

For me, it is great to see that people are getting it. For instance, 94% of respondents in the American study said they would invest in technologies that reduce their energy consumption.

Efficiency is and should be a major goal in sustainability initiatives, but I am little disappointed to see water conservation a distant thought to many questioned in the study. Energy is always in the media and minds of many, but one way or another we can produce endless amounts of energy. We will never run out of energy, maybe oil but not energy. Alternatively, water is the single most important finite resource on the Earth, and fortunately for the restaurant industry water conservation is one of the simplest and most cost effective green measures.

The major barrier to sustainability becoming second nature seems to be the perception that anything green means spending money – lots of money. On the contrary, many green options for restaurants come from simple changes in practices and procedures that cost little to nothing. Even with expensive upgrades the long-term savings in energy, water or waste hauling cost always make the investment worthwhile. The restaurant business is an industry to single digit profits, but the industry as a whole needed to see the light that pitching pennies today loses them dollar tomorrow.

All the studies show a great trend for our industry. We are moving in the right direction of acknowledging sustainable operations, but many of us still need a little prodding to get the ball rolling. If you or your company needs a kick in the pants to get on the right track, give me a call and I’ll help you get on track to sustainability.

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Sustainable Seafood

Author: Paul

We are honored to have Rich Boot, founder and CEO of FishChoice.com as a guest blogger this week. Fishchoice.com connects commercial seafood buyers with sustainable seafood suppliers. Rich offers some insight into serving sustainable seafood.

Is it the seller’s or the buyer’s responsibility? Actually both. Consumers need to ask where the fish they are buying comes from and how it is caught and restaurants need to make more sustainable choices available to consumers.

There are two reasons this doesn’t happen as often as it should:

1.       Chefs and consumers alike stick with the options that are most familiar to them. And often, neither one is willing to leave his or her comfort zone without a nudge. This is understandable. It’s risky for a chef to put an unfamiliar item on the menu and perhaps not sell it, and it’s risky for the diner to order something they aren’t sure they are going to enjoy eating.

2.       Sellers succeed by satisfying their customer base. If customers don’t ask questions about seafood, sellers assume that it’s not important. Yet, many customers don’t ask because they don’t know enough and don’t feel comfortable asking. Some feel that they shouldn’t be faced with unsustainable choices on menus in the first place. But will they buy an unfamiliar choice?

What’s the solution? Restaurateurs have to make the first move. Start by replacing one seafood menu item with a more sustainable one. Explain to the consumer why you think it’s important to offer more sustainable choices and what makes the new choice more sustainable.

Choose just one option at time to switch out, prepare it well, and be prepared to sell it.

Need ideas for preparing different types of seafood? Sustainable seafood chef/activist, Barton Seaver, has worked with The Blue Ocean Institute http://www.blueocean.org/food/ocean-friendly-substitutes to get the share recipes and substitution ideas with chefs all over the country.

Start by switching out overfished grouper with environmentally friendly, farmed striped bass. Here’s a recipe from Barton to get you started: http://www.blueocean.org/food/barton-seaver/recipes/striped-bass-catalan-broccoli-pine-nut-sauce. Sustainable seafood restaurant, Yankee Pier offers a Striped Bass Carpaccio with Citrus and Olives http://www.yankeepier.com/santana_row/santanarow_menus.html

Register http://www.fishchoice.com/ for FishChoice.com to find a supplier for striped bass today.

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Sustainability is in, finally. The 2010 “What’s Hot” forecast is out from the National Restaurant Association and sustainability dominated the top trends.

I don’t really like the word “trend” for sustainability because I think resource conscious operations is a sensible, long-term business practice, and not a trend. However, the forecast is for “What’s Hot,” and some of the things on the list will go the way of the Dodo.

Sustainability in general ranked in at number three with local produce, locally sourced meats and locally produced beer and wine in the top five, sustainable seafood in the top ten and organic produce and artisan spirits in the top twenty. Many of the remaining top vote getters had a sustainable twist to them like farm-branded ingredients, “simplicity/back to basics” and non-traditional fish, which I equate to sustainable seafood. The overall theme for the top trends is obviously in line with consumer trends of healthier, more environmentally conscious eating habits. Of course what we say and what we do are two different things as the US is still the fattest country in the world and getting fatter every day…

Regardless, having been pushing for sustainability in the restaurant industry for several years, it is nice to see sustainability taking hold. Even though some of the same trends like organic and local produce made it on the 2009 list, it seems restaurants chefs and owners have realized the benefits of sustainable practices. We need to make sure that sustainability remains standard practice rather than a trend since restaurants are the most energy intensive commercial businesses in the US, and tend to produce a lot more waste than the average business. I’ve seen the trend coming and hope 2010 is a banner year for green restaurants. Maybe next year sustainable foodservice consultants will make the top twenty…

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What is in Our Food?

Author: Paul

The Consumer Union has been in the news a couple times in the last couple of weeks. Just before Halloween the CU filed a petition with the FDA requesting that the governmental organization ban the practice of feeding chicken feces and basically anything else found on the floor of large chicken operations to beef cattle. This is a common practice in CAFOs, and of course affirmed as a safe practice by the beef industry. Interestingly enough, McDonalds the largest beef purchaser in the world is in support of the ban.

The CU also made recent headlines with a report that will be published in their December issue that tested for Bisphenol A in common food products. All 19 products tested showed BPA contamination at various levels. This is really not groundbreaking news as the many other studies have shown that BPA from food packaging leaches into food. The Environmental Working Group’s 2007 report on BPA showed baby formula had some of the highest levels tested.

With the release of the Consumers Union report, the industry in question is again stating that the results are flawed, and that their own testing and other reports show that BPA is harmless to humans. This, despite numerous other reports showing harmful effects of BPA, and support of the CU report from organizations such as the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Clean New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Oregon Toxics Alliance and other environmental health advocates.

Regardless of what studies one believes, the fact remains that there is some weird stuff in our food. Food packaging liners that are supposed to keep things out of our packaged food are leaching BPA into the food. Cows that are supposed to eat grass, are eating chicken poop and feathers. These are the facts, no one is debating them. Yet somehow the debate is on whether these things are harmful to humans and not on why they are in our food. A man made chemical is found in almost every packaged food on stores shelves (and restaurant kitchens). Beef is being created with chicken poop and the scrapings of the coop. This is just not a healthy, safe or sustainable option.

So, what are restaurants to do? Take the advice of sustainable food and agricultural advocate Wendell Berry:

•Participate in food production

•Prepare your own food

•Know the origins

•Deal direct

•Learn about industrial food production, agriculture, food   species

It basically comes down to the root of a sustainable foodservice operation; preparing fresh, local and sustainable food. Opening a can of product produced by an unknown company with ingredients from unknown producers places too much responsibility in the hands of others. Products made in-house from fresh ingredients sourced from producers known by name have an inherent pride and responsibility for quality and safety in them. Pride and a sense of responsibility create good food. Good food creates repeat customers…

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