An assessment by URBANlab, an architectural program at The California College of the Arts, recently deconstructed the journey of 19 ingredients commonly found in the average taco. Ingredients were selected based on economical choices; that is, only the cheapest ingredients made the recipe list.
What did the “tacoshed” (that’s a play on words between watershed and taco, FYI) study reveal? The taco in your hand, if in fact you’re eating a taco, is most likely the result of 64,000 miles covered by some combination of delivery truck, plane, bus, boat, or train.
Compiling the assessment entailed hours of research, phone calling, internet digging, and (assumed) frustration over the complexity of tracking food sources. The short story is simple, however: many foods purchased from wholesale delivery companies like SYSCO participate in a global supply chain that devastates our fuel supply.
The challenge is to focus not only on buying raw produce locally, but also prepared foods. This may mean cutting foods from your menu that you cannot prepare from scratch, or replacing prepared foods with a home-made version. For example, replace canned coleslaw with slaw made with local cabbage and carrots.
Is time an issue? Again, consider tailoring your menu to account for labor costs and improved quality; oftentimes, menus with fewer choices mean fresher ingredients, more time to prep each item, and oftentimes a better-tasting and more satisfying dining experience. By allowing more opportunity to prep fewer foods, you can purchase more fresh produce without fear that it will go bad. This cuts down on canned, prepared food purchases in significant ways.
Having trouble reducing the size of your menu? To narrow down the most popular items, distribute a survey to your patrons; leave room for suggestions on how to improve the food as well.
Other methods to lessen the “foodprint” of your menu include serving less meat, serving local meats and dairy, and altering menu options based on seasonal availability. Phase out canned chicken-noodle soup and replace with a local root vegetable stew, for a unique home-made flavor that diners will appreciate.