As we enter the new year, we can't help but notice emerging food trends for 2018, and it's no surprise that a movement back to locally-produced foods and food suppliers, including neighborhood butchers, is at the top of the list. Phil Lempert writes in Forbes that among the rising trends in food supply and grocery, there's a clear picture of what people want in 2018. They want to combine convenience and simplicity while supporting food suppliers that align with their personal values. This often leads back to local sources, if they're available. Think of your butcher, baker, fishmonger scenario...if the shop is there, customers now want to frequent it. People are hungry for a new era of ethics, transparency and craftsmanship with their food. And unlike 2016, when "craftsmanship" was first being thrown around in marketing and advertising in a big way, the word is no longer a mask for "fancy and overpriced." Because people are aligning their wallets with their values, craftsmanship has to be a demonstrated commitment, belief, and focus on what food should be: a high quality experience that's created with genuine care and passion.
Our current generations want to know (or rather, demand to know, as evident by rising market share) when their food is arriving (hello, meal kits and CSA programs!) and where it's coming from (story-driven milk labels are now the norm). While you may feel a little worn out by the term "farm to table," it's because it has become the standard, what we expect on the menu, especially in an agriculturally-diverse region like ours. Why wouldn't we want to bring the freshest ingredients possible to the table, especially when they're supporting our farm neighbors? Buying fresh meat and produce in bulk or through CSA programs ensures a livelihood for the farms, as well as a guarantee that you're receiving food that's been grown with a commitment to ethical standards by a craftsperson...someone who is fully dedicated to their trade.
After the meatmania of 2015 and 2016 ("Bacon ice cream!" "Can I barbecue this?" "Eat more headcheese" "This burger requires a fork and a day of fasting") we have fortunately simmered down in the gluttonous meat scene. Don't get me wrong, it was fun while it lasted, but it couldn't go on forever. Out of that trend arose the awareness of how important it is to know your meat sources: the animals, the farms, the cuts. A whole-animal philosophy (one which we at Foothills havepracticedfor years) has finally been pushed into the spotlight by a society that wants to reduce waste out of respect to the animal, the farmer, the butcher, and even their own household budget.
Our political scene is also coming into play with what choices we're making when it comes to our meals in 2018. Don't worry, I won't wade too much into the weeds here, but let's just say that folks are opening their eyes to how government regulations and "Big Farma" lobbyists are influencing the way we eat...and therefore, influencing our entire lifestyle. There's a return to the local butcher shop, not just for the experience of knowing your butcher, but also because supporting the local economy keeps dollars in that community.
Finally, in a survey of over 700 chefs by the National Restaurant Association, one 2018 emerging trend is the desire for "unusual" cuts of meat. And among the 10 food concepts for 2018, "hyper local," featuring restaurants like Foothills Butcher Bar, tops the list, along with sustainable meat and seafood, clean and natural menus, a return to simplicity, locally sourced produce, and a commitment to food waste reduction. Neighborhood butchers can introduce folks to different cuts and portions that inspire new ways to cook or produce a creative meal. Bulk meat shares and butchery demos will also support this new demand for learning different parts of the animal and getting excited for what's possible in the kitchen.
2018 is going to be a great year for food as society shifts toward the local, the ethical, the sustainable, and the simple. Food should be an enjoyable and empowering part of everyone's lives, an experience to be savored, and we hope to continue providing that for our own community here in Western North Carolina.