Footprint Blog


Yellow Peril: The garish return of Oilseed Rape

Posted in Comment,Economics,Logistics by foodservicefootprint on April 27, 2009

rapeseed

There’s a nasty, slightly sickly, smell in the air. Every time I leave the house I have to put on sunglasses and the old lungs are complaining. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Oilseed Rape is in flower and from where I’m standing it’s simply everywhere, with biofuel manufacture its destination.

 

Although Rapeseed oil appears to be the crop of choice as far as biofuel production is concerned, I understand its growth relies on large quantities of noxious chemicals, its production costs are more than standard diesel, it produces up to 70% more greenhouses gases than fossil fuels and has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2. And that yellow is horrible!

Another of those wonderful contradictions

 

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What to think?

Posted in 1,Comment,Foodservice Footprint news,International by foodservicefootprint on April 23, 2009

 

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Our job at Foodservice Footprint is to provide a foodservice specific view but we also like to keep a view on the bigger picture!

Below is a piece that was published in The Telegraph today.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/5203366/Climate-change-could-speed-up-as-pollution-decreases.html

“The new research found that plants have been taking in more carbon dioxide over the last 40 years because pollution makes it easier for plants to convert sunlight to energy.

However as the world produces more electricity from renewables and transport is made cleaner, the skies will be clearer – slowing the ability of plants to absorb the greenhouse gas and therefore contributing to global warming.

The study, published in Nature, warned that the reduced ability of plants to absorb carbon dioxide as the air becomes cleaner makes it even more important to cut emissions in the future.

Scientists have long known that the increase in pollution as a result of human activity reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface from the 1950s to 1980s in a process known as “global dimming”.

Now researchers from across the UK and Europe have found that the phenomenon also increased the ability of plants to absorb carbon dioxide. This is because the diffusion of sunlight caused by global dimming means the land receives light from different directions rather than just directly from the sun. As a result, plants are able to convert more of the sunlight energy into growth, trapping carbon dioxide as they do so, because more leaves are in the sun.

Dr Lina Mercado from the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology said: “Surprisingly, the effects of atmospheric pollution seem to have enhanced global plant productivity by as much as a quarter from 1960 to 1999.

“This resulted in a net 10 per cent increase in the amount of carbon stored by the land once other effects were taken into account.”

The increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, may have helped to slow global warming. However as the world cuts pollution it will speed up again.

Co-author Professor Peter Cox, of the University of Exeter, said: “As we continue to clean up the air in the lower atmosphere, which we must do for the sake of human health, the challenge of avoiding dangerous climate change through reductions in CO2 emissions will be even harder.

“Different climate changing pollutants have very different direct effects on plants, and these need to be taken into account if we are to make good decisions about how to deal with climate change.”

 

Please also see the obituary of Sir John Maddox, the former Editor of ‘Nature’, some enlightened views may come to light. Sadly, Sir John died on April 12th 2009.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/science-obituaries/5195811/Sir-John-Maddox.html

Happy Birthday to us!

Posted in Comment,Foodservice Footprint news by foodservicefootprint on April 22, 2009

earth-on-a-plate-lr2earth-day

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day.  According to Wikepedia, it is the 40th Earth Day since Senator Gaylord Nelson launched the project in 1969 to ‘inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment’.  An estimated 100,000 joined a US gathering in Washington alone to celebrate!

It is also Footprint’s first birthday, so we have alot of catching up to do! The party might be less well attended, but the celebrations no less meaningful. By next year we hope to have attracted many more partygoers and we expect this blogsite to go some way towards achieving that end.

Our objective is to promote a transparency to the environmental issues that affect the foodservice process and become the industry focal point for impartial debate and the positive exchange of ideas. We have great ambitions for the coming year and intend to add other media channels to the existing Foodservice Footprint journal and this website and blog. We hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Time for a toast!

Organic or not

Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Diet,Economics,Food Trends,Provenance by foodservicefootprint on April 22, 2009
pic:www.yorktourism.com

pic:www.yorktourism.com

We learn that the sales of organic food have fallen by a fifth and that numbers of producers are resigning their accreditation. Needless to say, the recession is being blamed, however it would be interesting to see what would have happened without the current economic nightmare.

The organic movement has undoubtedly done us the great service of opening everyone’s eyes to the rather more unpleasant aspects of pesticides and industrial farming. However, I have a suspicion that their success will prove to be to their commercial detriment in the not too distant future. 

At the same time as organic sales have been forging ahead, consumer media has been pushing the concept of healthy, nutritious, ‘proper’ food with pastoral vigour, ably supported by the sermons of the reverands Oliver and Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

The paying public have followed foodservice and have discovered provenance for themselves. They are now very conscious of the origins and delivery of the food they eat and know where to get what they want…and it needn’t have an organic label.

Wherefore Fairtrade in Foodservice?

Posted in Comment,Economics,Food Miles,Food Trends,International,Produce,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on April 22, 2009

 

fairtrade1

 

Further to the article ‘Half of the British Public is now familiar with Fairtrade’, this may be so, but it refers to the public’s perception of the genre and bears little relation to who’s actually buying the stuff.

 

Although a sizeable chunk of Fairtrade’s UK sales are in coffee, bananas are much the biggest seller, with the vast majority of the brand’s estimated £700m turnover being registered in the retail sector.

 

So wherefore Fairtrade in foodservice? Leaving aside coffee shops, sales are minimal outside of promotional activity periods. Price is clearly a major factor as operators seek to cut costs. Put a Fairtrade banana alongside an ‘ordinary’ banana and the only difference is its price – not in Fairtrade’s favour, I’m afraid, and a no brainer as far as the cash struck operator is concerned.

 

 

Double Standards in the On-Trade

Posted in Comment,Food Miles,Logistics,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on April 22, 2009

peer_vitae

Can anybody help answering a burning question that we have?

One would have thought the notion of supplying restaurants with bottles that are either shipped or flown to our shores and then have to be loaded onto lorries and driven to the final destinations, would have involved some form of green consciousness or at least some form ecological mandate?

The water industry, ostensibly in the same logistical sphere, get constant flack and are constantly having to defend themselves by making their environmental policies as transparent as possible. So why, oh why, does the wine trade not follow suit?

Looking at the websites of the main players in the wine trade, no supplier that I came across mentions anything about the environment. Is it me, or is this strange?

A father had four sons: When they left school one went into the City, one into the Clergy, the other joined the Army and poor old Rupert didn’t quite know what to do so he joined the Wine Trade. As vivid as this cliche may be those days have simply gone by.

What has emerged is a global, enlightened industry that is no longer French-centric and is very keen on bringing the idea of wine and all its mystery to the people – effectively decoding the enigma previously only accessible to the privileged. We now have brand managers and on-trade sales managers who understand not only the wines that they are selling but also the intricacies of the markets that they are selling to. The stuffy stereotype wine merchant and sommelier of days of old, does not have a place in the modern day wine trade. And those that once could have been in these ranks are now mature enough to have adapted to the modern business environment. This is why it is so surprising.

Bio-dynamic and organic wine making methods are as ancient as the production of wine itself, yet the branding of these methods is new! I suspect vintners who engage in these methods believe that it produces a better wine and that the environmental sustainability is merely a symptom rather than a cause but should those involved in the logistics of buying and selling wine not follow this example and focus on a positive impact of the environment? Or at least let its customers know that they are aware of a movement?

I would like to know that the wine served at my table in a restaurant has got there by an on-trade supplier that does not consider itself immune to the general cause of environmental consciousness and is addressing points on a greener path.

I am not a tree hugger and I don’t want bio-dynamic and organic wines shoved down my throat but whilst the bottled water industry is taking huge amounts of flack, these arguements are one of foodservice’s great inconsistencies in its quest for a greener industry and I believe that the on-trade’s green integrity needs to be addressed.

This criticism is in many ways directed at those who pay lip-service to green fad’s and will pick holes in perhaps the more obvious areas. But before criticising the usual suspects of the water industry, livestock farming, fisherman etc, maybe these should look at the less obvious areas with equal interest and be more consistent in their criticisms and arguments.

Alchemy?

Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on April 21, 2009

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The whole water debate sits very uncomfortably. I feel it is simplistic to hop on the band wagon of water shortages in the third world and it is also very easy to criticise the logistics of bottling water and actually delivering it to restaurant tables, not to mention recycling issues. There are commercial realities but overall, I do feel these are being addressed. However, in my heart of hearts I cannot help but think that the fact is that there are thousands of water sources in this country (many of which undiscovered) that give consumers access to probably the most natural consumable this country has to offer and let’s not forget that our water is probably of the best quality in Europe. Furthermore, these water sources allow the maximisation of agricultural land and have created employment in demographically challenged areas.

Whilst I can see the virtues in drinking tap water, I think we have to find a balance! Were the bottled water industries to disappear, it would be devastating to many regions in this country and whilst we talk about provenance and local sourcing, I think we have to be careful not to tip the balanace. Bottling water is nothing new and has been occuring for centuries, yet bottling water commercially has not. 

 I think retail has got a great deal more to answer for than those few native brands that supply the foodservice industry.

Below is a blog written on The Guardian’s website by Rebecca Smithers last month in aid of UN World Water Day

Bottled water sales drop off !

‘The consumer backlash against expensive, bottled water is gathering momentum, according to two related studies this week which reveal that more of us are content with that plain old, dirt cheap stuff that comes straight out of a tap.

First of all, the UK’s restaurant-goers overwhelmingly prefer to choose tap water over bottled, according to a brand new survey issued to tie in with UN World Water Day 2009, which fell on 22 March.

The research, commissioned by international charity, WaterAid reveals that tap water is the preferred choice for 63% of people when they dine out. Over 23.5 million people prefer to order tap water with their meals rather than bottled. Yet despite this, one in four people surveyed said they have felt pressured to order bottled water when dining out.

More and more UK restaurants are offering tap water to diners as standard, which is already the norm in the US. But you still often have to ask for it – with the associated embarrassment that can cause. WaterAid’s drinking water survey also shows that women are more likely to choose tap water, while men are more inclined to have bottled water with their meal. And where people live also seems to make a difference – people in Greater London and Scotland are the most likely to choose bottled water, whereas those dining out in the South East and East Anglia are happy with a good old jug of tap.

The popularity of bottled water soared in the 1990s and the early 2000s, but is now s-o-o-o yesterday, according to figures from market research company TNS. Last year the on-going year-on-year increase in sales was halted and sales actually fell by 9%. The Guardian has highlighted what an expensive and unnecessary adornment bottled water is, even singling out Bling H2O– in frosted glass bottles adorned with Swarowski crystals and a mere snip at $55 a bottle – as the ultimate eco-unfriendly product. Tap water costs around 0.1p a litre at home. Surely it’s a no-brainer?

Which do you drink – bottled or tap? Which restaurants would you single out for their refreshing attitude to offering tap water, and which are still swimming against the consumer current?’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2009/mar/23/bottled-water-sales-fall

Your comments on this would be hugely appreciated as we at Foodservice Footprint would love to shed some light on one of the elixirs of the industry.

 The following links may be of interest:

http://www.llanllyrwater.com/index.php?page=sustain&section=sustain

http://www.hildon.com/environment.php

http://www.kingsdownwater.co.uk/environment.html

Richard Phillips gives his operating thoughts on provenance!

Posted in Comment,Food Miles,Food Trends,Logistics,Produce,Provenance,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on April 21, 2009

 rp-cookeryleft

 This article appeared in the Autumn issue of Foodservice Footrint and gives a realistic revue of hands on operational environmentally conscious actions. 

Sourcing good quality local produce is hard work as you have to go out and find it – it doesn’t always come to you. It is a long process, but one which over the years has enabled me to develop very good relationships with suppliers all across my home county, Kent.

To buy locally sourced ingredients means to buy seasonally, and a natural result of that is better quality food, which tastes just as it should. Anybody interested in food will share my passion in that respect. However, I am keen to take this passion further than most by actively seeking local produce to be used in all three of my restaurants. Whilst this is paramount for the newly opened ‘Richard Phillips at Chapel Down’ in particular, I will not lower the standards of my ingredients in order to do so.

Sustainability is all about sourcing locally. As well as quality, another vital factor to consider is consistency. I need to know that my suppliers are able to keep up with demand, which has not been easy for some local suppliers in the past. However, Kent has now more produce than ever to offer. This has allowed me to serve my ‘Chapel Down’ customers potatoes from just one mile up the road, as well as fish from Rye harbour and Sussex beef. I guess if we are talking ‘food miles’ I can deliver something unique. The wine used in a large number of my dishes – from the Chapel Down vineyard on site – is sourced just yards away. Does that make it a ‘food yard’? Sourcing locally has unlimited benefits for businesses in the catering industry.

Personally, I can interact directly and easily with the farmers who supply the produce. Not long ago, my potato supplier offered to grow and develop the perfect ‘chipping’ potato for me. Whatever the produce, it is in turn, fresher than that of further afield. And as it is seasonal, it is generally cheaper. These benefits are all passed on to my customers, reflected in the quality and price of their meals. Using suppliers close by helps local businesses in their bid to develop and profit, which will ultimately improve the local economy.

Knowledge of this has encouraged me to spread my wings further in the local fields. As opposed to stopping just at food, I am keen to source other materials locally. Where we could, we used British products. The rustic atmosphere generated matches that of the restaurant’s idyllic surroundings. Sustainability and provenance are hot topics, which food, naturally, has become part of, especially given today’s rising costs. I have always been an advocate for local produce and keen to back local farmers and suppliers.

This is not about me jumping on the bandwagon of a topical issue, but instead something that I am proud to have achieved in my businesses. My encouragement of sourcing locally does not match that of other related issues.

The organic fad, for example, is just that; a fad, a trend losing support. It is important to remember that farmers nowadays use as little sprays and pesticides as possible in response to peoples’ highly publicised concerns. By using organic produce in restaurants, prices unsurprisingly have to increase. And why do that to customers when quality, local ingredients can match, if not better, the experience for them? My chefs also demonstrate this enthusiasm. Shooting on a regular basis, we are eager to test the quality of local game. Just the other week we shot over 200 pigeons in Kent, which, the following day, were on the menus of my restaurants. It is so important that my team and I have involvement right the way through from the field to the plate.

Looking to the future, I will continue my efforts in sourcing local and sustainable quality produce – I am currently spending a lot of time with my suppliers to make this happen. One goal is to have 65% of the ‘Richard Phillips at Chapel Down’ menu comprised of local produce. I am also in talks with a farm in Winchelsea about farming animals solely for my three restaurants, and ‘Winchelsea Farm Kitchen’ due to open in February 2009. Here we are planning to use a mobile abattoir so that animals are not under stress during transportation. After all, a happy animal produces tender, flavoursome meat. So, is home grown always better? Yes. When you know what you are doing. I am in no way trying to preach to other chefs. Sourcing local, quality ingredients works for me, for my businesses, and for my customers. I intend to stick to it.

Half of the British public is now familiar with Fairtrade

Posted in Comment,Credit Crunch,Economics,Foodservice Footprint news,International,Produce,Sustainability by foodservicefootprint on April 19, 2009

 

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According to a global survey by Globescan, commissioned by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations, half of the public are now familiar of the Fairtrade Certification Mark.

The survey, which questioned 14,500 people in 15 countries including the UK, also found that nine out of ten (91%) trust the label. Some 64% of all consumers believe that Fairtrade has strict standards, a quality that also closely correlates to consumer trust. And almost three quarters of shoppers (72%) believe independent certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims.

These levels of awareness and trust are consistent with people’s action, as sales indicators show more people are shopping for Fairtrade. Sales were up in 2008 (as compared with 2007) by 24% in Austria, by 40% in Denmark, by 57% in Finland, by 22% in France, by 75% in Sweden, by 43% in the UK and by 10% in the US.

Further research found that 32% of people learn about Fairtrade through family, friends and work colleagues, whilst 16% hear about it through education, community and faith groups. Broadcast and news media account for how 33% people learn about Fairtrade. People learn about new products and concepts from their own social groups and contacts – a key ripple effect for Fairtrade.

In the UK nearly half of consumers are ethically active with high expectations of corporate responsibility. The UK has the highest level of awareness with 82% of people saying they recognise the Fairtrade mark. Of these people, 94% say they trust the fairtrade mark. More than three quarters of shoppers, 77%, believe that Fairtrade has strict standards and again more than three quarters of shoppers, 77%, believe independent certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims.

Estimated retail sales of Fairtrade products in the UK topped £700m in 2008.

We have often argued that the virtues of Fairtrade are ambiguous but despite this, we believe that this is a step in the right direction.

“If it is local, it must taste better”. A balanced response to an over indulged belief

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Foodservice Footprint recently ran a competition in schools concerning awareness of locally sourced food. One young A-Level student, Archie Cosby, from Sherborne in Dorset emerged trumps, not only in his environmental opinions but also as a budding journalist.

“Oh but these potatoes are delicious. They come from just down the road you see”. This angle on local food is far too widespread. Why, just because it has been locally sourced, should it taste any better? I think that like organic food, the nation has overdone the whole idea that ‘local food’ is far better. It may create a community within local regions, and it may at times have less negative environmental impact, but it does not mean that it tastes better. It is an ill perceived belief that this is the case and it is something that too many chefs have become overindulged in, printing it all over menus as if it will earn them a Michelin star. This over obsession reminds me of a similar misjudgement of ingredient like that of the overly heavy use of truffle oil which they think adds to a “locally sourced” wild mushroom risotto for instance, the nutty and fragrant flavour and aroma exclusive only to an actual truffle when what it really does is just inject a vulgar, sickening taste. Anyway, why not enjoy the fruits of our labour. We spent rather a long time exploring the world, and wasteful of this hard work it would be if we weren’t to take full advantage of the pleasure existing in foods from around the world which we cannot get hold of in Britain. I do, however, concede that, opposing this view on local produce is an argument of much strength, and one that is supported by an impressive number of people. Lending their services to what has almost become a ‘movement’ in its sweeping attitudes and at times strong political arguments, is an army of – yes, I’m afraid I’m going to be highly controversial and say it – confused and aggressively passionate terriers who have become tied up in a gastronomic world of fantasy where they hope to better their own health and to establish themselves an image of supporting the local community. They have spun together this world in which they live like menacing spiders, their legs moving furiously in a motion to create their web, one which merely represents a frantic mess of false delusions. I myself realize that I too, while writing this, am weaving my own little web, one in which I am weary of becoming tired and getting stuck, except I fear not being disembodied by my hungry female counterpart. Instead, I am worried that I may find myself lying under a thick bush of nettles, with rather a hard pillow of gravel and tarmac, not thinking about making nettle soup for supper, but instead worrying more about the tire marks running across my stomach. Of course, I am eager to avoid being brutally disposed of by an over sized 4×4 on its way to the local farm shop, but I do also, to an extent, sympathise with these ‘terriers’. While I do argue that, just because it’s a potato that was grown 5 miles away, it doesn’t mean that it is any tastier, I do think it is crucial that we support our country’s agriculture. We do, after all, owe a lot to our fields. We are all familiar with that famous slogan, “Dig for Victory”, and, although we had little other choice but to grow our own vegetables in such a way during the Second World War, it was the importance of growing our own produce which was so enthusiastically embraced that was, many argue, a decisive factor in the Allies’ victory in 1945. So if not just as a patriotic salute to those wartime veg growers but also to our own farmers of today, I suppose we ought to at least consider the impact that food sourced from distant locations has on the environment. We are a country gripped by the issue of global warming, and, unlike organic food, and to a degree, ‘local food’, this is not just a chic fashion. Instead, unfortunately, it is rather more serious than such. Tony Blair was, it is only fair to say, speaking some sense when, in 2008 he encouraged the nation to “Just Ask” where the food that they were buying at supermarkets came from. Backed by Britain’s Country Land and Business Association, this campaign endorsed by Mr Blair aimed to heighten the amount of British produce being purchased by the public. For this to work, the hope was subsequently that the public would opt more regularly for the cut of gammon steak produced by British farmers, their pigs reared on the grassy moors of Gloucester. The man who introduced this scheme was, however, also the same man who planned to have all British soldiers out of Iraq by 2007. We are also, after all, British and however proud we are of our own produce, we are a nation who have been described on more than one occasion it has to be said, be it by our Gallic enemies from across the channel, as one that doesn’t ‘do’ food. This mockery is beginning to cease, and so it should be what with the outstanding advances which food has experienced in this country. The last 20 years has seen something of a revolution in Britain’s restaurants and we are now beginning to establish ourselves as a country that would confidently challenge any other in the kitchen. And, with gastronought Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurant, The Fat Duck was named the Best Restaurant in the World as ranked by an international panel of 500 culinary experts, why on earth should we not strive to compete for the culinary crown so arrogantly assumed ownership of by the French. Fine, they may have produced the likes of Herve This, August Escoffier- ‘the king of chefs and the chef of kings’, and Joel Robuchon – widely considered as the greatest of all French chefs, but we in England, in a small village called Bray have taken their prized snail and have converted it into a snail porridge. The magnificence of this dish is in its deliberately bizarre and unappealing name as it becomes triumphed and conquered by the experience of eating it. I am aware that I’m ranting. I am only an Englishmen who is eager to boast about, and to support, the food of this country. So too are nearly all of us. But it is just more costly to do so as we now find ourselves swamped by the collapse of our economy. As much as we would like to buy that cut of Gammon reared in the English midlands, our wallets simply point us instead, as shameful as it is, to that lump of ‘meat’, the label which says ‘Gammon’ merely disguising the contents of China’s bins in its clear up of Beijing in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, bins from which barks could not too long ago be heard and paws seen poking out of the top. The point is, therefore, that it is just too expensive for many to support locally sourced food even if they would ideally like to.

Archie’s article will also be published in the up and coming edition of the Foodservice Footprint journal. Well done Archie, box of organic vegetable sourced from North Dorset coming your way. We look forward to hearing more from you!

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