The “Farm-to-Table” or “Farm-to-Fork” movement started a few years ago in California, in the USA. Some leading restaurants sourced produce and meat directly from local farmers. The goal was to ensure food safety and quality – chefs could work with farmers who grew their crops organically, or raised animals in a healthy way.

Some restaurants even started adding details on their menus – you would see notes like “Our ducks come from Ireland” or “Hormone-free Australian beef”.

This concept of farm-to-fork is beginning to get more popular in Asia and the Middle East.

Leading food professionals are asking questions about the origin of the meat they buy – including asking how it has been farmed?

Customers want to know the meat they eat has been raised safely and ethically
Credit: "Cows In A Field" by foilman licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Carne Meats is proud to work with farmers in Cambodia who are committed to raising animals safely and healthily. The animals are fed naturally on grass, with no animal by-products in the feed. No growth hormones or excess antibiotics are used. This results in happier, healthier cows – and tasty meat. Stressed animals produce more adrenaline hormone, and this makes meat bitter and tough.

The result is Carne Meats Raw – a premium range of fresh meat, beef, lamb, pork and poultry. The meat is butchered by expert butchers at FOODSERVICE APME and can be delivered to customers in a range of popular cuts. It can also be custom cut for chefs into the exact meat cuts they want for their business.

Your customers are willing to pay more

The farm-to-table movement is important for food professionals because studies show customers in restaurants and supermarkets are willing to pay more for meat and produce when they know it is healthy and fresh.

There have been many food scares and scandals over the last few decades. Now customers want to know where their food is from, and how it is grown.

In a fairly recent study for Produce Retailer magazine, consumers across all age groups said they would pay 10-24% more for organic food. If you break the study down by age, 32% of shoppers aged 18-39 said they would pay more for organic food – and some were willing to pay up to 49% more. Among older shoppers, 40% of shoppers aged 40-49, and approximately 28% of shoppers aged 50+ said they would also pay more for organic produce.

A garden like this, filled with organic herbs and vegetables is one way to add a “farm to table" element to your cuisine. Credit: "secret summer herb garden" by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Why food traceability matters to farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement often includes some form of food traceability. This is when the origin of the food is identified to chefs and to consumers. For example, a menu might state that only sustainable fish is used for this dish. Some menus even name the aquaculture company supplying the fish, and list their sustainable certifications.

Often restaurants cannot source all the food they need locally, and it may not be cost-efficient to ensure all ingredients are organic. In such cases, only some dishes or only some ingredients are labeled as local, farm-to-table or organic.

To give the best return on investment, organic or homegrown ingredients may only be used in high-value or high visibility dishes that guests really remember – for example, a chef may add a station of healthy foods to the breakfast buffet. The station could include a spread of detox water, lettuce, sprouts and various types of juices and fruits.

Farm-to-table restaurants often identify the source of their best ingredients, right down to the country or farm.
Credit: "Duck Neck Sausage" by avlxyz is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Eco-friendly aspect of farm-to-table movement

The farm-to-table movement is part of a larger interest in sustainability and the environment. By sourcing vegetables from a variety of smaller farms and producers, we can help to protect older forms of vegetables and fruits. These are the types of vegetables our grandparents grew. They are now called “heirloom” fruits and vegetables and they are highly prized by foodies for their genuine flavor and taste.

As part of this movement, some hotels and restaurants are setting up their own mini-farms to grow some of their own herbs, fruits and leafy vegetables.

Asian herbs and vegetables can be great for a farm-to-table restaurant in Asia, because plants like Thai Basil and Sweet Potato leaves grow fast and easily in Asia.
Credit: "Thai basil and sweet potato leaves" by Jnzl's Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For example, a hotel or destination restaurant may set up a “Spice and Herb Garden”. Such gardens are not only useful for chefs, they can become an attraction because they are fun and interesting for guests to visit.

This fresh herb garden filled with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme is pretty and useful.
Credit: "Thai basil and sweet potato leaves" by Jnzl's Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At The Zuri White Sands Resort near Goa in India, one acre of their grounds is dedicated to its organic farm. Guests can pay for a tour and even select their own herbs. The resort also sells pickled mango and mango chutney made from fruit grown in the gardens.

At Walt Disney World in Florida, some of the produce used at the resort is grown vertically using either stacked gardens or specialized trellises that allow crops to reach gravity-defying heights. Produce grown in this way uses less space and water than normal farms, and the vegetables, fruit and herbs grown are top-quality.‍

Disneyland resorts grow some of their own fruit and vegetables onsite, using hydroponic technology.
Credit: Michael Rivera, from Wikimedia Commons, licenced under CC BY-SA 4.0

And if you want to stress your establishment’s eco-friendly attitude, you can even go as far as fertilizing your plants with organic compost made from kitchen vegetable scraps.

Cost barrier in organic produce

Cost control is vital to running any restaurant business. Organic produce is often highly priced and availability can be an issue. An executive chef can attempt to connect directly with local farmers to ensure high-quality produce. But it may be more efficient to work with experienced suppliers and allow them to source the produce for you.

Chili peppers need careful handling. Credit: "Red Chilli Plant" by Andy_Mitchell_UK, under CC BY-SA 2.0

For one thing, the quality of food transportation is extremely important. Produce, meat and all such perishables must be transported hygienically and efficiently – especially in the hot weather we have in Asia and the Middle East.

It is helpful that FOODSERVICE APME has the largest and most experienced food delivery system in the region, with the largest fleet of refrigerated trucks. The company also uses state-of-the-art semi-automated handling systems to reduce handling and food damage.

Therefore, it is possible to benefit from farm-to-fork produce, without having to find it all yourself. Instead, this produce can be delivered to you.