For decades now, there have been many individuals who take issue with the food service and grocery industry. Factory farming has had a variety of negative effects on the environment, and the treatment of the livestock in these places has been well publicized as being inhumane. The large grocery chains in America waste millions of tons of food annually that goes bad and unsold, and there are health concerns about the long term storage and chemical additives in the food. As more and more information concerning things like small farm economics and food safety became available to the public, a movement began to grow. Focusing on ensuring that their food is exclusively obtained directly from the primary source of the product, the Farm-to-Table movement is the result of decades of building change in the attitude towards food safety and traceability.
One of the first and most well known farm-to-table restaurant is called Chez Panisse, located in Berkley, California. Founded by food activist and author Alice Waters, Chez Panisse is famous for developing a network among the local farms and dairies to purchase their food directly from the source. Food-to-table restaurants like this have become more and more popular since the early 2000s, turning into one of the most widespread fads in the restaurant industry. By cutting out middlemen and large national chains, the food-to-table movement takes money that would leave a local area forever and funnels it back into the community.
There are of course many critics of the food-to-table movement, some more valid in their concerns than others. Many of the complaints against the farm to table are typical of those directed at any environmental cause, mostly accusations of elitism and ineffectual posturing. While the prices are undeniably higher at the food-to-table restaurants, it is an inevitable consequence of purchasing from a small local business instead of a large chain. Unfortunately, more valid were the accusations of widespread fraud in the food-to-table restaurant industry. Investigative journalists uncovered frequent and ubiquitous fraud in the claims made by farm-to-table restaurants about the source of the food they were serving. When products were not easily available locally or became prohibitively expensive, these restaurants simply purchased their food from a traditional grocer.
Over the last several years, an effort has been made to bring the farm-to-table movement into the cities, and to make it more well known among the general public. This has been done with the combination of fast-casual restaurants with the farm-to-table model, bringing fresh ingredients to customers for a reasonably inexpensive price. Sweetgreen is the most popular of these new chains, having opened more than sixty of the salad bar restaurants across the country. Even Applebee’s has played with the concept, briefly introducing a farm-to-table item to their menu as an experiment. While some may have dismissed this as a passing fad, the farm-to-table movement has proved that it will not so easily fade away, becoming more popular every day.