Putting my money where my mouth is

We hear the word sustainable quite a bit these days, but I am not sure people understand the depth and the background associated with its definition. I can’t say that I fully understand it either.

In my opinion, sustainability has become more of a marketing term. In actuality, it refers to not being harmful to the environment or depleting resources and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

As I do more research about sustainability, I have come to the conclusion that we as a world can not control Mother Nature, and for that matter, control sustainability. I say that in consideration of the current ongoing food practices, rules, and regulations.

I’ve been studying the sourcing of fish and seafood. There’s the reality of how much we can catch (pounds per year harvested vs. resting while they reproduce). And the more research I do, the more uncertain I become about how we can sustain our demands for fish and seafood.

The question I have been asking myself lately is “What is sustainability, and is Mother Nature sustainable?” When it comes to fish and seafood, the only way to truly sustain them is through farm raising.

troutSome people are uncertain about farm raised fish and seafood. And I understand that. However, most foods are produced from a farm or in the wild. Ironically, 85% of that fish that we eat in this country does not originate from the US. And only around 3- 5% of the fish that is imported is tested by FDA. Think about it. Do you really know where the fish you purchase is coming from?

I believe we need to begin doing our homework and asking smarter questions about the fish and seafood we eat. In addition to knowing where it came from, we should also be asking “What did the fish eat?”, and “Where did that food that the fish eat come from?”

There is a term called vertical integration. Vertical integration is where a company produces several items which are related to one another, all of which support the final product. For example, if you are raising fish, you would also grow the food for the fish on the same property. This will help a company maintain total control of their product, promote financial growth, and create efficiency in their business. Some think this is the way of the future, which ironically is a repeat of the past.

I am fortunate that I have the right as a restaurant owner and chef to decide where I source from and whom I support. Therefore, it’s my responsibility to thoroughly research my food sources. It may be a microscopic way of making a difference in the world, but each cent I spend is a vote for what I believe in. If we’re buying commodity hogs, then that practice is what we’re promoting and supporting.

When I have questions, I call my chef friends and other resources that I trust. Recently I did research on salmon. I was considering serving farm raised salmon. So I spoke to several chefs who shared their opinions, and I learned they do not prefer farm raised salmon. Most would rather support the wild salmon caught during open season.

I do believe it is helpful to have multiple food source options, and there are many choices and options in the food industry. It is my choice to support and source from local and smaller farms, where I believe practices are better, and both man and beast are respected.

All in all, the point being is, you have to do all of the research that you can, then decide what you believe is best for your situation. It’s best to make decisions based on good information. And getting good information always takes work.

Moving forward, the question for me will be, “Who am I going to support?” Will it be farm raised seafood and fish, or will I buy ocean/river caught?

At this time I have the power to choose where I source the products that are served at Lockeland Table. It’s a responsibility and an ongoing study that I not only enjoy, but take very seriously. You’ll see the results of that research throughout our menu and on every plate we serve. I hope that research and our end product will allow you to feel good about putting your money where your mouth is.


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