PMA foodservice expo underscores need to educate

07/31/2009 10:42:00 AM
Fred Wilkinson

Let your buyers know.

Vocal about local

Chefs and some students from The Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales University asked suppliers questions about locally grown produce, apparently not knowing local growers are a different segment of the supply chain as well as competitors.

They also made some references to local produce being fresher, tastier and more healthful.

None of those three things is true, but the comments by the present and future foodservice professionals underscore how deep that perception is lodged in the public’s consciousness.

During the workshop Point/Counterpoint: Food Safety and Your Business on July 25, a couple of industry executives provided their own insights on locally grown produce and food safety, particularly concerning calls for safe handling rules to apply to suppliers of any size.

Bob Gray, Salinas-based chief executive officer of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Oviedo, Fla., posed a question: Would locally grown operations preserve their pastoral mystique if they had to adhere to the same food safety protocols that larger grower-shipper-processors have to?

If visitors to you-pick farms had to don hairnets and beard snoods, take off their jewelry, put on protective outfits and were ordered not to touch anything, would the local grower seem as quaint and homey? Oh, yeah, and that farm dog running around in the orchard? Get him out of there too.

Tim York, president of Markon Cooperative Inc., Salinas, summed up the difference in expectations between national and local suppliers like this: “With a local grower, you kind of expect him to have dirt under his nails. If (Tanimura & Antle chief executive officer) Rick Antle shows up with dirt under his nails, you wonder where he’s been.”

E-mail fwilkinson@thepacker.com

Did you attend the PMA Foodservice Conference, or do you have some insight into the foodservice industry? Leave a comment and add your opinion.


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