How important is it for restaurants to use locally sourced menus? About 8% of US farms market their produced food locally. In recent years the global demand for locally-grown food has been increasing. At first, there might seem to be a few benefits of restaurant menus featuring local meats, grains, and vegetables. However, it can provide various benefits to local farmers and restaurants. They involve many benefits related to financing, environment, relationships, food, and even the menu itself. So the option of buying your menu items’ ingredients from local farms is certainly an option worth considering.
In recent years the demand for “local food” has been spiking in countries like the USA. Customers want to know specifics about restaurant food, including who, where, and how it was made. It’s related to more transparency in the Digital Age. It’s much easier for restaurant owners to know that information if they buy their food from local farms. It’s much tougher if it’s bought from sources in other regions. Many consumers have concerns about how the food they’re eating has affected the environment, including the air, soil, and groundwater. Local food can provide you with more answers.
What in the World Is Local Food?
Local menus served at restaurants start as locally-grown food or “local food.” It’s a general term like “natural food” so it’s important to know the basics about it tends to mean. There are some key features including food’s that:
- Bought from local growers you communicate with
- Grown on one’s own
- Grown within 100 miles (161 km)
- Purchased at local farm markets/stands
There are other broader definitions. “Local” foods can also include food that’s grown in your region/country. The concept of local food has different meanings based on how far the food was grown and your relationship with the producer (or becoming the producer).
There are various features related to locally-grown food. They include better taste/nutrition. The flavor of locally-grown food is often better since it’s consumed right after the harvest season. Another benefit is the food ripens naturally in fields and on plants. No synthetic chemicals are added to speed up the process.
Local foods are harvested during the peak season, which boosts the nutritional value. For example, when an apple or orange is harvested on the other side of the country the nutritional value drops significantly by the time you eat it.
Another key feature of local food is greater food safety. The rates of food contamination are much lower when you purchase food from local sources. This happens more often on huge industrial farms with nearby livestock.
There are other food safety issues. Local farms have less processing and thus lower risk of foodborne sickness. Food safety laws might also be different in other national or world regions compared to your location.
Yet another key feature of eating local food is you can enjoy a wider variety of options. For example, you can enjoy different in-season fruits and vegetables that are tougher to find when your ingredients are sourced from other regions of the country.
Top Benefits of Locally-Sourced Food
Since locally-grown food doesn’t have to travel to the other side of the country, let alone another country, this can help to lower your restaurant’s carbon footprint. Studies show the main sources of carbon dioxide (CO) emissions are vehicles and factories.
This also provides some good public reactions (PR) for your restaurant. Today more consumers think about how their dining choices affect not only themselves but also the environment.
When you interact with local farmers this can strengthen your restaurant’s connections with the local community. Building a working relationship with local farmers can create more future business opportunities for your restaurant. This is important because of part of the business plans.
When you buy locally you have the chance to purchase particular items that are in-season. This allows you to tweak your menu based on those offerings. This can help to increase interest from customers since you can offer different menu items during different seasons. It turns out that in this case, variety is the spice of life.
Fun Fact: The average distance fruits/veggies travel in the US before getting to the final destination is around 1,500 miles (2,414 km). This often requires some sort of food preservation. If you buy your restaurant’s ingredients from local farms the food will be much fresher and nutritious.
This is because you can name the farm that produced the ingredients of the menu items including meat, fruits, and vegetables. It can provide a better and more memorable dining experience. That’s because the menu items tell a story. It helps to connect diners to your food because they think about its source.
When you buy from local farms it returns money into the local economy. Studies show that buying locally can boost the per capita income. When the average person makes more money this improves the local economy.
Top Foods to Buy Locally
This is one of the foods that are fruits (they have seeds) yet are cooked as vegetables. A possible problem is that they can easily get contaminated with pesticides. So it’s important to go with farmer’s market tomatoes. This will help to make sure you’re getting the freshest and tastiest tomatoes possible. You can usually find them at farmer’s markets since they can grow just about anywhere including deserts.
Fun Fact: The original version of corn developed from the grass about 9,000 years ago. So in a sense, modern corn is genetically modified organisms (GMO) from the get-go. However, today you can still buy organic corn, and it’s more likely when you buy locally. A good source is your local farmer’s market for some incredible cob corn.
Pesticide contamination and GMOs are quite common when buying apples. These factors can affect the fruit’s taste and nutrition. So it’s a good idea to buy locally to help avoid these possible issues. Communicating with local farmers can help to guarantee that you’re getting 100% organic apples instead of ones grown with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Grapes are often used to produce grape juice and red wine. However, one problem is grapes often experience “pesticide poisoning.” So it’s a good idea to buy grapes from local farmers to get the best results. You’ll taste the difference if you buy grapes from summer to late fall from a local farmer’s market. It’s like drinking a glass of fine wine.
These small fruits are always best when fresh. You can often get them in the summertime at farmer’s markets. Due to the laws of supply & demand, the prices can be quite low during this time. It’s best to go with organic berries when possible, which can provide health benefits besides their being locally sourced.