Where does the food you eat come from? An organic pig farm on Bainbridge? The lasagna division at Stouffer’s frozen foods? Is what you put in your mouth good for you—or just good for some multinational food supplier? We’re questioning the sources of our sustenance more than ever. Take the Tampa Bay Times, which earlier this year published a scathing indictment of west central Florida’s so-called farm-to-table scene. Reporter and restaurant critic Laura Reiley found example after example of restaurant menus with bogus claims about the provenance of their fare. Florida blue crab, say, purportedly snagged from local waters but that actually hails from the other side of the globe (in the Indian Ocean).
The Associated Press, meanwhile, recently scored a Pulitzer for its multipart series investigating commercial fishing practices in Southeast Asia that should make you scrutinize every fish stick, interrogate every cod. “This intricate web of connections,” the AP team writes, “separates the fish we eat from the men who catch it, and obscures a brutal truth: Your seafood may come from slaves.”
In this month’s cover story (“Food Lover’s Guide”) we take our own glance at where our food comes from, celebrating those local restaurants and purveyors and ranchers and growers who get it right. Senior editor Allecia Vermillion and her team tracked down the organic farms supplying our best restaurants and markets with heritage chickens and foraged tubers, sun-bright egg yolks and blazing ghost peppers. Our hope is that with the right information we can all make smarter, more conscientious choices.
The power to change abysmal food-sourcing practices is in your hands more than you may think. Reiley, the Tampa Bay Times critic, discovered that consumers want to believe they’re eating local—but don’t want to pay the higher prices that truly local, organic food costs.
In other words, purveyors and the food they provide aren’t the only ones to blame. After all, the thing at the end of the fork—not the tines, but the other end—is you.