As a society, urgent and far reaching action is required, if we are going to meet the IPCC’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. The production and supply of food has a huge environmental impact. Livestock production is responsible for 14-20% of all human caused global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As such it is our responsibility to change this. To create menus that have less impact on our world and limit the effects of climate change.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association, has identified three areas, where chefs can really make a difference:
- Meat reduction on our menus
- Food waste reduction in our kitchens
- Plastic reduction across the board
Changing the way we eat, purchase food and design menus is quite probably the way each of us can make an impactful contribution to limiting the rise in global temperatures. As chefs, we have the opportunity to lead from the front, creating exciting menus that taste fantastic and have a smaller environmental footprint. By focusing on smaller portions of better quality meat, vegetable led dishes and local seasonal produce we can inspire clients to change their eating habits and work towards limiting climate change.
When we design menus, we should prioritise:
- Featuring more VEG.
- Celebrating local and Seasonal produce
- Better and Less meat
- Stopping Food waste.
- Sourcing fish sustainably
- Low carbon footprint menus/meals
Featuring more veg: Vegetables and cereal crops have a small carbon footprint when compared to meat and dairy production. Thus veg-led dishes are intrinsically better for the environment, helping preserve natural resources. Less meat also makes for a healthier diet.
Celebrate local and seasonal produce: Locally sourced produce has few food miles associated with it, as such a smaller environmental impact and supports local people and the local economy. The same is true of seasonal produce, using produce that is in season locally means fresher tastier produce that has a smaller impact.
Better quality and less meat: the aim of this is to use smaller amounts of high quality tastier meat. This means meat that has been produced from high-welfare livestock, that is free range and is preferably organic. We are talking about meat that tastes better, is ethically and morally unambiguous and has a much smaller environmental impact.
Source fish sustainably: use fish from sustainable sources in moderation. Global fish stocks are overexploited as a result of overfishing, which has and is causing significant biodiversity loss. As such we need to take special care when using fish on our menus. See the Good Fish Guide.
Stopping food waste: this is of significant importance, as a third of all food produced globally is currently wasted. By reducing food waste, we can significantly reduce the environmental impacts associated with food production. We can do this by:
- Ordering/purchasing without excess
- Using as much of each piece of produce as possible
- Tweeking menus based on what produce needs to be used.
- Providing food for staff with extra produce/meals.
Low carbon footprint: this is about using fewer resources. Specifying produce that are produced with the smallest impact and are the most ethical. It is also about what we don’t put on our menus, just because some items are available in the supermarket does not mean we should use them.
Local and Seasonal Produce
With the advent of supermarkets and chilled storage, seasonality is a lot less obvious than it once was. Most produce is always ‘in-season’ at the supermarket. Listed below are vegetables that are in-season during the winter in France. As such they will be grown locally, have travelled smaller distances, will be the freshest and will generally be the most cost effective.
Supermarkets are required to label, where produce comes from. As such it is fairly easy to ensure that your produce is produced locally, well at least at a national level.
Seasonal Winter Produce:
- Brassicas, including: broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower (regular and heritage colourful versions), kale, cavolo nero.
- Cabbage varieties including: green, savoy, red and Chinese.
- Brussel sprouts
- Endive lettuce and endive frissee
- Squashes, including: acorn, butternut, spaghetti, hubbard, kabocha, and delicata squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Beetroot, rainbow beet etc.
- Celeriac and celery
- Turnips and swedes
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Onions, shallots and garlic
Seasonal but not Local
In the warmer parts of europe and further afield a range of fruits are seasonal in the winter. These include:
- Citrus fruits
Local but not Seasonal.
The Savoie, the region we are in, produces a lot of apples and pears. These are available all winter and will generally be labelled as a local product.
Other local products include: walnuts, honey, blueberries, raspberries
Local Cheeses: Beaufort, Beaumont, Raclette, Tomme de Savoie, Tome de Bauges, Tomme de Chevre, Reblochon, Emental, Chevroten, Abondance, Savoie Gruyère,
Local Fish (lake and river): Ferra, brown and rainbow trout.
Local grape varieties, white: Jacquère, Altesse [al-tess] (aka Roussette), Roussanne, Chasselas, Gringet. Red: Mondeuse and Persan.
Better and Less Meat
As discussed it is important to focus on using meat that has been produced with high welfare standards. In France the best indications of this are through two labeling schemes:
- Agricultural Biologic: organic (https://agriculture.gouv.fr/lagriculture-biologique-ab)
- Label Rouge: high welfare (https://www.labelrouge.fr/)
The carbon footprint for each type of meat differs significantly. We should take this into account when designing our menus. Prioritising meat with the least environmental impact:
Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from livestock production, provides a means of identifying types of meat that has the smallest environmental impacts:
- Beef 300 kg CO2-eq per kilogram of protein produced
- Small ruminants (sheep and goat etc) 165 CO2-eq.kg.
- Pork, chicken and other poultry)are below 100 CO2-eq/kg
This shows that beef produces the most CO2, almost double that of lamb and two thirds more than chicken and pork.
Example Vegetarian Chalet Menu
Sous vide poached egg, mushrooms, jerusalem artichoke crisp, watercress
Charred squash, barley and pea risotto, sage pesto, leafs, honeyed walnuts
Chocolate fondant, Cherry ice cream, cocoa nibs, white chocolate
Beetroot with three types of local goats cheese: mousse, Tomme and crostini
Wild mushroom and polenta fritters, escalivada, salad, mint, pickled raisins, toasted almonds
Caramelised apple tart, elderflower sorbet, walnuts and apple crisp
Saffron cauliflower soup, toasted hazelnuts and chive oil
Falafel, fennel, pistachio and orange salad, beet-hummus, feta and toasted pita
Vanilla pannacotta, rhubarb and crystallised ginger
Fennel, orange, quinoa and endive salad
Savoy cabbage leaves stuffed with potato, chestnuts, spring onions and Gruyère. Lentil cassoulet and tarragon emulsion
Deconstructed Vegan Eton Mess, with meringue, sorbet, berries and mint.
Asparagus three ways: Arinchine, velouté and powdered
Pine and juniper infused cauliflower steak, dukkah, rocket pesto, cherry tomato vinaigrette and sheep’s curd.
Tonka bean cheesecake, honey oat crumb, wild blueberries .
Charred Broccoli, ash goats cheese, quince terrine/rosehip paste, hazelnuts
Root vegetable tarte tatin, pea puree, pickled radishes and pistachios
Dark chocolate sphere, yogurt foam, berries, butterscotch sauce.