Consumers want to know about what they're eating, so give them the full story, says Rob McFarlane, meat and poultry director, Prime Meats, Brakes Group
We continually read about the demand for local foods and see initiatives to promote local food to local people across the UK. These initiatives are fantastic and give food service operators the opportunity to purchase local or regional specialities to put on their menus. But what is a consumer's - or indeed caterer's - definition of "local"?
Ask several different people and they will invariably come up with a different opinion, whether it be the farm behind their pub, the local butcher, the local cash and carry or, indeed, their local Brakes site. Looking further afield, to many it will mean their county or region, and to some their country, or "British". While it might seem an easy question on the front of it, when you delve a little deeper it's not as simple as it seems.
What is clear is that the increasing trend for local, regional, seasonal, origin-assured and speciality foods continues. This is being driven by the consumer's demand for higher-quality products and a greater desire to know where their food comes from.
The industry continues to see increasing price pressures in food, and consumers will begin to be more aware of what they are paying. Therefore, it is essential to promote the quality of the food you serve.
The challenge for the caterer is how to satisfy this demand for food with a story to tell while ensuring that everything they are saying is backed up by a robust supply chain that enables full traceability.
In the meat industry there are many accreditations that caterers are beginning to use, and they see the benefits of using them to underline their commitment to quality: Assured Farm Standards (Red Tractor), EBLEX, Freedom Foods, Welsh Lamb, Scotch Beef, Quality Meat Scotland, just to mention a few.
Brakes specialist butcher Prime Meats is a supporter of the NFU's Why Farming Matters initiative and began to supply Red Tractor farm-assured products in 2004, as well as providing customers with Welsh Lamb, Scotch Beef, British and Freedom Food-accredited pork.
The popularity of these accredited and assured foods continues to grow, and consumer awareness created via the retail sector will ensure this demand increases. Caterers need to make the most of the opportunity at hand and not only be willing to talk about quality food but to actively promote it in any way they can.