“I first visited The Chef’s Garden,” Catherine reminds us, “about 18 months ago. I was told that I really needed to meet Farmer Lee Jones because there was a really interesting overlap in our stories.”
So, she decided to meet with Lee – and there truly are many synchronicities. The two began discussing farming, sustainability, and the importance of looking after agriculture’s most prized asset – its natural resources – and the impact of all of this on the quality of the products that are being produced. And, indeed, whether being local naturally meant it was better – better quality and/or better for the environment.
The answer, according to scientists from The University of Toowoomba, The University of Arkansas and the Queensland University of Technology who analyzed the life cycle of Australian grass-fed beef and lamb. . . is no.
“What they discovered,” Catherine shares, “is that transport isn’t really the biggest contributor to the carbon footprint, energy or water use in the product’s lifecycle. The majority of this activity [more than 95 percent] takes place on the farms and processing plants before the product even gets on a truck or in a boat.”
So, to truly be environmentally sustainable, it’s important to carefully analyze what farmers and ranchers are doing on the farm.
“In short,” Catherine explains, “environmental sustainability isn’t really about the where your food is coming from – but how it is being produced. Food miles are simply not the silver bullet indicator of environmental friendliness.”
Questions that chefs who want to be part of the buy local movement, then, should ask are:
Whom are you purchasing the food from?
How is it being produced?
Does this production fit within ethical/sustainable production guidelines?
Is the food good quality?
Does the food satisfy your diners in terms of quality and flavor?
Notice that these questions don’t ever ask “where” the food is being produced, only how.
“You need to tick off every item on this list,” Catherine concludes, “and they all need to mesh together.”
Be Part of the Roots 2018 Discussion
It’s not too late to register for our annual culinary conference, a conference that continues to get better and better each year. There, you’ll get to hear an in-depth conversation on this very subject, from numerous experts with unique experiences and perspectives.
You can find the Roots 2018 agenda here – and notice that we’ll kick off the presentations with this one. Panel participants include:
Catherine Golding, Moderator
Daniel Huebschmann: Corporate Executive Chef, Gibsons Restaurant Group
Matt Pearce: Fifth-Generation Beef Cattle Grazier
Farmer Lee Jones: The Chef’s Garden & Culinary Vegetable Institute
Here’s an overview of the presentation:
Cultivating a New Perspective on the Buy Local Movement
Today’s guests continue to ask for more transparency about what is on their plates. They want more information about how and where their food is produced, how environmentally sustainable it is, how ethically it is produced, if it’s natural, if it is “clean’ food”; and they don’t want to compromise on quality.
This session brings together a vegetable farmer from Ohio – Mr. Lee Jones himself – a cattle rancher from Australia, Matt Pearce; and a chef from Chicago, Dan Huebschmann to discuss why how food is produced matters as much as (or even more than) where it is produced to continue to meet guest expectations. Meat & Livestock Australia’s Catherine Golding moderates.
Hope to see you at Roots 2018! It wouldn’t be the same without you.