By Carissa Chesanek, Contributing Editor
Today, many people are interested in healthy eating. That means while they want healthier meal options at home, they also want to see healthier options at restaurants. And one big aspect many customers want to see are sustainable proteins on the menu. Why? Because they want food options they feel good about, whether it’s due to their outlook on the local ecosystem or their view on healthier ways to fuel their own bodies.
However, properly sourcing sustainable protein can sometimes be difficult. Thankfully, there are a few tips to follow when you need some advice on serving the right protein to your customers.
Work With the Right Suppliers
Finding the right suppliers for sustainable proteins is a must. Not only do you want to work with local suppliers (to help out the community and promote what your area has to offer), but you need to consider just who you are working with as well. It’s essential to work with reputable suppliers to ensure you are receiving and serving the best quality protein to your hungry restaurant crowds.
Research the suppliers before working with them. Find out everything you can about them so you know who you are dealing with. Who have they worked with in the past? Who are they working with now? What types of sustainable proteins do they offer? And don’t be afraid to ask around to get more information on them, too. You want to ensure these suppliers have a good reputation for offering high-quality sustainable protein and truly care about the products that they sell.
Make Good Choices
If you want to serve sustainable protein in your establishment, it’s important to make good choices on the food you are offering. Chef Scott Uehlein (formerly from Canyon Ranch) discusses sourcing protein correctly in an informative YouTube video. The first type of protein he talks about is poultry and how important it is to buy “certified antibiotic-free products.” This type of poultry is healthier for both the consumer and the animal because it was “never treated with antibiotic” so there are no chemicals or added hormones in the food.
Chef Uehlein then moves onto beef, which he says should either be grass-fed or pasture-raised. There are several reasons behind this observation. The first being grass-fed meats have higher level of amino acids and are lower in fat, which allows those who are eating them feel better about consuming beef. The other reason is that this type of beef is “better for the environment and the animals.” Like the poultry discussed above, these animals are not injected with hormones or treated with antibiotics because they are “eating their natural diet and don’t get sick quite as often.”
Now, onto seafood. For those dishes that require sustainable seafood, it’s important to ensure you are serving the right fish. For example, chef Uehlein says when buying tuna, look to see that it’s “pole and line caught” and is light tuna rather than white. Light tuna is made with smaller fish, which means there is less of a chance that it's been contamination unlike white fish that are larger and have been in the water much longer. And if you’re looking for the right salmon to serve on the menu, stick with Alaskan wild caught. Not only does chef Uehlein believe it’s “more tasty” than other types, but it has a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids, bringing more health benefits to the consumer.
Use Programs to Help Make Better Choices
Professional programs such as Seafood Watch can help you learn about better and healthier sustainable choices when it comes to the fish you eat and serve. Programs like this one can provide informative guides and recommendations so there aren’t any questions; you will know that what you are getting and serving is the best. Another benefit to using a program, such as Seafood Watch, is the convenient app for your smartphone. Not only can you get recommendations on seafood right at your fingertips and on-the-go, but you can also help get the word out about your restaurant to those who are interested in eating sustainable seafood. With an app like this, you can promote your venue to consumers so they know if they come to your restaurant, they will get the sustainable fish they are looking for.