I recently wrote about how people need to be careful when buying anything labeled grass-fed beef, given that the USDA says it can;t police who uses that when for their products any longer. And now I’ve come across this story from Tampa warning that the rash of new restaurants popping up these days calling themselves farm-to-table may not be what they claim either.
The food critic for the Tampa Bay Times checked into claims by some farm-to-table places in that area and was not happy with the results.
“This is a story we are all being fed. A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby,” writes Times food critic Laura Reiley of the so-called farm-to-table restaurant craze.
But, she continues, “more often than not, those things are fairy tales. A long list of Tampa Bay restaurants are willing to capitalize on our hunger for the story.”
Reiley talked to the chef-owner of one acclaimed local farm-to-table place and wrote this about what she found out and was told there:
“Dorsey [owner Ted Dorsey] said he buys pork from a small Tallahassee farm through food supplier Master Purveyors. But Master Purveyors said it doesn’t sell pork from Tallahassee. Dorsey said he uses quail from Magnolia Farms in Lake City. Master Purveyors said the quail is from Wyoming. Dorsey said he buys dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka through Weyand Food Distributors. Weyand said it doesn’t distribute Dakin. Dorsey said he gets local produce from Suncoast Food Alliance and Local Roots. Both said they have not sold to The Mill. He named three seafood suppliers. Two checked out, but a third, Whitney and Sons, said they had not sold to The Mill yet. They hope to in the future.
“I called him on all this. He said he needed to speak with his chef, Zach West, and get back to us. The results didn’t get any closer: farmed trout from Idaho, beef from Colorado, yellowfin tuna off the northern East Coast.
“’Local Florida proteins are not quality,’ Dorsey explained. But what about the mileage claims? ‘Well, we serve local within reason.'”
Anytime consumers show an interest in some new food trend, people will try to make money by giving them what they want, and not always in the most scrupulous ways. So once again buyer beware.
My personal gripe with farm-to-table places near me is their menus still seem crammed with high-salt, high-fat dishes, no matter where they’re getting their other ingredients. Lighten up guys!