Buying locally, however, is not always an easy option for food operators as the large wholesale suppliers try to entice business by offering cheap products in ready useable portions. But, chefs are increasingly eschewing these offers in preference for real and more appealing foodstuffs available on their doorstep.
Benefits of buying locally
•Quality - it is easier to monitor quality and freshness of ingredients and products, by buying direct from farmers and suppliers. Chefs, for instance, can actually see how animals are reared, how produce in grown and how cheese is made.
•Seasonal - if a chef buys ingredients that are grown locally then it is going to be seasonal and therefore bought when the items are at their cheapest and in peak condition. A restaurant has the opportunity to promote seasonal, locally grown asparagus or raspberries and feature special dishes that are enticing to customers.
•Traceable - it is much easier to trace any problems with an ingredient or product directly back to its source if it has been purchased locally, without going through a 'middle-man'.
•Environmentally friendly - ingredients and products that are bought within a 20-kilometre radius of a restaurant, pub or catering company avoid running up extensive food miles, resulting in excessive fuel consumption and widespread pollution. A report published in the journal Food Policy states that if all foods were sourced within a 20-kilometres of where they were consumed, environmental and congestion costs would fall from £2.3b to under £230m annually.
•Economically friendly - supporting the local economy has a knock-on advantageous effect on your restaurant or hotel.
•Interesting, tasty products - locally produced goods are more likely to be made by artisans who put a greater emphasis on producing food with flavour as opposed to large manufacturers who are generally driven by profit.
•Great marketing tool - chefs who are proud of buying locally will emphasize the fact on their menus and use it to promote the restaurant in any public relations opportunity. Items like Goosenargh duck, Ryedale lamb, Cromer crab and Ticklemore cheese are all enticing to customers.
Where to find local food
Whilst every restaurant and, hotel and catering operation throughout the UK - including those found in large town and cities - is surrounded by local growers, food producers and suppliers, it is often very difficult to find them.
Here is a list of useful websites that will point chefs, restaurateurs and caterers in the direction of local food producers, farmers' markets, pick-your-own-farms, and food fairs and festivals.
Local Food Works
An organisation that supports and encourages the development of local food networks
Soil Association Certification
This is believed to be the UK's largest database of organic ingredients and products, which can be located in specific areas.
A directory of farm shops, farmers' markets and pick-your-own farms.
A listing of speciality foods which can be located geographically.
A website promoting local farmers and producers.
Food From Britain
As well as providing links to regional food suppliers, the Food from Britain website also lists all the major food festivals and events around the country.
Henrietta Green's Food Lovers' Britain
Enthusiastic food lover Henrietta Green lists her favourite local suppliers and details of her food fairs, held around the country.
Regional food groups
There are a number of regional food groups which provide a good starting point in the search for local food:
East Midlands Fine Food (Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland)
Heart of England Fine Foods (Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire)
North West Fine Foods (Cheshire, Cumbria, Great Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside)
South East Food Group Partnership (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex)
Taste of the West (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire)
Taste of Anglia (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk)
The Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber
Welsh Development Agency