The theme of yesterday's Regionality exchange was authenticity; we heard from numerous restaurant chefs who acquire local provenance.
One of the themes was restaurants offering provenance that was real. One of the biggest problems Polyface has with restaurants is those who buy a token from authentic producers and then get most of their ingredients from commodity sources. But they put the local producers' name on their chalk board.
A recent analysis by a Florida media group estimated that roughly 80 percent of the "local food"claims by American restaurants are fraudulent.
So I was thrilled when one of the presenters offered a project he's working on to add a QR code to the menu that tracks back to the farm of provenance. That way before someone even orders from the menu, they can check out the provenance source and make their buying decisions.
As to how to insure that all of this is on the up and up (a question I asked the assembled panel of chef experts) the only answer was to work with chefs who are trustworthy. That was a thin answer and illustrated the difficulty of verification.
In the U.S. I worked with a couple of guys for two years trying to tackle this question and I told them the only way I knew to actually verify was to have a third party handle the restaurant purchase invoices so they could match up with the menu. In other words, if the restaurant is using 90 dozen eggs a week, their invoices should show purchases of 90 dozen eggs a week and where they came from.
But no restaurant will give up its purchasing record so no way exists to match up the purchases with the menus.
It's certainly an ongoing problem. But with a QR code on the menu, it would give more clout to the farmer who cries "foul" when bait and switch occurs. You would think that with all the third party certification programs floating around to exact a toll from farmers that they're telling the truth, someone would exercise the same techniques to insure chefs are telling the truth.
But I'm afraid we're a far way off from that.
How do you know that the eggs you're having at restaurant X are coming from the farm noted on the blackboard?