Does your favorite restaurant promote the use of “organic produce when possible” or “local and sustainable ingredients”? Over the years, trends towards local, sustainable and organic foods have increased. This rising demand has many restaurants and food establishments working to promote a greener image, but in reality are not. Very few restaurants are certified organic, so how do you know if a restaurant is really practicing what they preach and if they’re really using organic ingredients?
Be Aware of Organic Deception or Simply, Misinterpretation
Restaurants across the nation utilize the terms “organic,” “local,” and “sustainable” but more often than not, it’s used as a marketing tool. While some restaurants do source some of their produce from organic farmers, customers may not be receiving a dish that is entirely composed of 100% organic ingredients. How can restaurants and chefs get away with this? If you recall from our article, Sustainable Agriculture, the term organic doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable and sustainable doesn’t always mean organic! In other words, this means that restaurants that promote sustainable practices may be recycling meat bones, creating compost or simply recycling, but may or may not be using organic produce. On the other hand, a restaurant may use organic ingredients but may not be environmentally friendly. Indeed, restaurants that promote the use of local ingredients may be doing their share to support local farmers but even though some local farmers grow organic produce, this isn’t always the case.
The confusion of all these terms results in misuse of these words by restaurants and misinterpretation by consumers. Just as the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the same concept should be applied when evaluating a restaurant’s image vs. the actual ingredients. For example, a restaurant can boast the use of organic and local ingredients, but since they are not certified organic restaurants, they can mix and combine organic produce with conventional ingredients.
If eating organic is important to you then it is also important to do your research so that you know what you are eating and what you are paying for. Truthfully, there is no sure way to tell how much of a restaurant’s food is organic, local or sustainable—unless of course, you ask!
Why Aren’t Restaurants Entirely Organic?
It’s no hidden secret, organic ingredients are often more expensive than conventional produce. Aside from being time and labor intensive, organic certification is very expensive. In return, it often costs restaurants more money if they purchase all of their ingredients from organic suppliers. Restaurant go-ers would be faced with higher prices, as restaurants would have to raise menu prices. In addition, running an organic restaurant is not easy! At the back end, restaurants would have to make sure organic ingredients are stored separately from conventional ingredients and even prepped on different cutting boards.
Just like the packaging on certified organic foods, restaurants have to be able to back up their claims. If they label their menus as “We use organic produce when possible,” this gives them room to avoid the stringent regulations and issue altogether.
Tips to Find Out If Your Restaurant Is 100% Organic:
- Call or ask when you are there
- Visit a certified organic restaurant
GustOrganics is New York City’s only certified organic restaurant, certified by NOFA-NY