With the weather turning more clement and the warmer months approaching (the summer of 1976 has been cautiously mentioned), thoughts are turning to the outdoors: picnics, barbeques and fine dining out on the evenings are top of the agenda.
Now is a good time to push the Best of British concept, and the Red Tractor labelling scheme is making its presence felt.
The scheme aims to unite 60,000 farmers and 800 food business and food-service providers, to ensure that the Red Tractor logo is prominent on food, showing that it is local produce.
At a launch event for the Government’s “Year of British Food” celebrations last week, the NFU, AHDB, Red Tractor and British Food Fortnight organiser Love British Food, Red Tractor Week and a 12-week Red Tractor on-pack promotion across retailers and food-service operators was revealed.
However, the scheme came in for a certain amount of criticism and unease about how the public will back higher local produce consumption. AHDB chief communications and market development officer Christine Watts said the number of consumers supporting British produce is “disappointing”, with price, quality and convenience remaining “dominant” factors.
For local producers in the UK, especially in the South West, if the £100bn UK food industry can be promoted abroad through a dedicated Great British Food Unit, there is no reason why the great British public cannot equally educated.
Devon Local Producers
There are literally thousands of companies in the UK, small, medium and large who advocate local produce. Let’s take Devon as an example.
The Red Earth Kitchen is located in Kingsbridge, at the head of the Salcombe Estuary. The company was founded 12 years ago, in a domestic kitchen with the aim of providing ready meals and deli products exclusively for sale in the local Red Earth Deli. Today, the company makes a range of traditionally hand cooked ready meals using local free-range meat and eggs, fresh seasonal vegetables and rich dairy produce from the local area. Red Earth Kitchen’s most recent introduction has been salads and dips, pates and baked goods as well as Bigbuns, a new range of cupcakes.
If you enjoy cheese, then take a look at Hillside Speciality Foods, which makes a select range of handmade products to accompany any cheeseboard. Fruit pastes, chutneys, relishes and savoury biscuits are all made with ingredients sourced locally wherever possible and in season. And following family recipes which are over 100 years old, the chutneys, pickles and relishes are filled with locally grown fruit.
For those who think that sushi is the height of fishy sophistication, take a look at the products from the Dartmouth Smokehouse, where kiln roasted salmon, trout, and delicacy dishes like smoked eel are traditionally cured and smoked. The company is recognised as one of the UK’s leading speciality smokers and has been the recipient of many prestigious food awards.
And for those who believe that New Zealand is the lamb providing capital, visit Eversfield, one of the few organic farms where every single process takes place onsite. The company breeds, raises and butchers its own meat, from beef and chickens to pork and game, with Eversfield organic lambs born and reared from a flock of mixed sheep.
The Red Tractor initiative is to educate and remind people that British local produce is amongst the best in the world. If you are a caterer gearing up for a hot summer, check out the local produce around you and be clear what local really means in terms of food.