Farm Name-Dropping: Do Restaurants Have to Do It?


I've been thinking about this lately: Are restaurants here ever going to get to the point where they don't feel its necessary to name drop farms—or at the very least put disclaimers (or claimers, in this case) stating that their ingredients are sourced from the local and organic? Will it ever become just an assumption?

Bruce Cole, editor of Edible San Franicsco, thinks not: "For now, I don't see the end of menus name-dropping farms. I don't think we're ready to accept the fact that good-quality food—that is produced with good values—costs more. SOLE food ingredients (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) are more expensive and restaurants that serve them need to reflect that in menu prices. I think the problem is, if we get to the place where its an assumption, some restaurants will just play the green card without walking the walk."

Which has been the talk of late: Restaurants that imply their farm-freshness when the truth is a little less than clear. As if our dining choices were't complicated enough.

As things stand now, there seems to be a value in farm name-dropping: The 2010 Zagat survey of U.S. restaurants reports that 61 percent of diners are willing to pay more for green products and menu items, up 5 percent from last year despite the tough economy.

I'd like to believe this—to think that people are ready to pay the price for these values (at least those that support them in the first place), but I so often hear diners complaining about menu sticker shock, even when a menu makes it clear that the restaurant sources good ingredients. It's one thing to support the sustainable movement in theory, but it's another one to actually cough up the cash. It's Michael Pollan's ongoing lament, and until the playing field is leveled between big ag and independent farms, it's probably one that we won't hear the end of any time soon.

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