Supporting Local Suppliers: Good, But Not Good Enough

I’ve heard pretty good things about The Winchester on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So Bill and I stopped there last night after our food pick-up at the West Michigan Co-op. Normally, our tradition is to eat at the Electric Cheetah when we pick up our food, but this time we diverted from our routine to taste something different.

As I seem to harp about every time I go out to eat around here, The Winchester–like many other restaurants–is lacking in menu descriptions. While there were some references to local suppliers such as Mud Lake Farm (our CSA) and Sobie Meats, not every meat on the menu is listed by its source.

This is what I’m trying to encourage restaurateurs to do. It’s great that The Winchester includes a disclaimer at the bottom, which says they “proudly serve meats from Sobie Meats of Grand Rapids, Mud Lake Farm of Hudsonville, and Ingraberg Farms of Rockford” (although the latter two are produce suppliers, not meat suppliers). I love that they list their primary suppliers. But what about the Mahi Mahi in the Fish Tacos? Is it sustainably caught? And the Pulled Pork isn’t described as local, like the “ground local beef” in the Tavern Burger and the “braised local lamb” in the Gyro.

When I asked our server if the ground beef was grassfed he said it was pastured. That gave me comfort, although I wasn’t sure if that meant the cow was pastured for its whole life or just part of it. If it is, indeed, grassfed, why not add this attribute to the menu description? It would be so much easier for us consumers to get all the information we need in one place, and to believe that the restaurant’s intentions are to accommodate not only local businesses, but also good animal welfare practices.

In the end, I opted for the Mixed Greens from Mud Lake Farm and the Butternut Squash Pierogies with braised cabbage. I’m glad I did because, when I looked up Sobie’s Meats on the web today, their website describes their products as “Locally grown beef & pork; prime-cut steaks; fresh chicken; homemade kielbasa; sausages; jerky; bacon; hormone free.” All good selling points, but just a hair away from letting me feel good about eating Sobie Meats.

Don’t get me wrong….I love the idea of supporting our local businesses. I’m just looking for that next step away from feedlot meat to grassfed meat.


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