Mass-produced livestock with no room to breathe, battery-caged chickens, and antibiotic-containing meats are not the proteins a growing segment of your customers want to be eating. Big chains like McDonald’s, Denny’s, Starbucks, Chipotle, and Panera Bread are publicizing their commitments to cage-free eggs and disclosing their antibiotic-free policies because they understand the importance of this industry-leading movement. Transformative meat production practices are improving and supporting consumer health, animal welfare, and sustainability. With consumers demanding reassurance that the proteins they eat are fresh, ethically raised, and additive-free, serve responsibly sourced proteins to deliver healthier, high-quality items, boost profitability, and protect your brand’s ethical standards.
Reading Between the “Responsibly Sourced” Lines
Some organizations and councils define standards regarding what’s considered to be ethical or responsible eating; yet, there is no one specific seal of approval that designates a protein as being “responsibly sourced,” leading many companies to establish their own internal guidelines. Responsibly sourced protein could mean that the animals come from farms in which they’re treated humanely, or it could mean, as many labels broadcast, that the animals are grass-fed, free-range, and antibiotic-free.
No matter which specifications your protein obtains, make your customers aware of efforts to source responsible proteins by including information provided by the suppliers in a menu description or a note at the bottom of the menu. Your website and social media channels also offer great platforms to expand on the stories of your protein, illustrating the farms animals were raised on and conveying standards they uphold. Being transparent with customers about what responsibly sourced means to your restaurant will strengthen trust and build loyalty. Demonstrating transparency not only leads to loyal customers, but it can also lead to increased profits.
According to Nielsen, 66% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact. An informed consumer is more likely to pay more for food that is responsibly sourced because they equate value with the high standards of these proteins. While many diners are mindful about their food choices, other customers may not be, presenting an opportunity to educate these customers and promote responsibly sourced proteins.
Menuing Responsibly Sourced Proteins
As fall approaches, many start to crave comfort foods associated with the season, providing opportunity to showcase responsibly sourced ingredients in creative ways. For example, incorporate Tyson Red Label® “No Antibiotics Ever” Chicken or other all-natural, free-range proteins into a timeless, comfort food favorite such as pot pie. Transform the narrative behind this cherished dish with a menu description like, “Indulge in the classic pot pie you know and love made with ingredients that were ethically and responsibly sourced.” Pair items like this with seasonal produce that’s packaged in biodegradable material, such as Maines Produce Harvest Root Vegetable Medley (#006980), and give a nod to its sustainable qualities. Connecting the concepts of seasonal, time-honored offerings with earth-friendly ingredients will create a nostalgic attraction and appeal based on the known benefits of responsibly sourced ingredients.
Local, free-range, and grass-fed beef can enhance the flavor, quality, and perception of your center-of-plate offerings. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), grass-fed beef is expected to outpace other beef on menus in just four years. Capture customer attention with Yakitori, Japanese skewers, featuring grass-fed beef. List “grass-fed” on your menu to give your beef a backstory, unveiling the details of the beef on their plate.
Consumers’ growing appetite for companies to be more responsible about sourcing sustainable, ethically raised proteins has created an expectation for it, and your operation should know how to best merchandise these offerings. With today’s consumers using more natural assets than we can sustain, there’s no question whether restaurants should be supporting a sustainable food system. Build customer trust, boost profits, advocate for humane treatment of animals, and protect the environment – all by menuing and merchandising responsibly sourced proteins.