Consumers ate a LOT of frozen food in 2020. According to Supermarket News, frozen food sales in 2020 were up 21% in dollars and 13.3% in units over 2019. Packaged food sales also got a big boost (up to 87.5% the week of March 15, 2020) as fresh food supply chains felt the strain of the pandemic.
Now that we’re on the other side, we’ve gained a whole new appreciation of fresh food and connection to our local communities, which sets the table for farm-to-fork concepts to thrive like never before. Whether you feature just a few farm-to-table menu items or an entire menu that is locally sourced, consumers are hungry for fresh, nutritious, flavorful food that helps support the local economy.
Unlike foods that are picked before they are ripe so they can travel up to thousands of miles before consumption, locally grown produce is picked at its peak ripeness. This practice ensures the most flavorful and nutritious product, which is a good thing, but it can impact shelf life.
Here are a few ways to keep local produce fresh and protect your valuable investment.
Weed out “Bad Apples” at the Point of Receiving
Can one bad apple truly spoil the bunch? Yes! The riper fruit gets, the more ethylene gas it produces. The ethylene gas from a single bad piece of fruit causes other nearby produce to ripen and rot faster, putting the entire carton at risk of quickly going bad.
To safeguard against overripe produce sneaking in under the cover of cardboard, transfer food from original cartons to clear food storage boxes in the receiving area. Cambro Camwear Food Storage Boxes placed on Dunnage Racks hold food safely 12″ above the ground which also makes unloading and loading more comfortable for employees.
A convenient way to physically sort through newly received product to ensure acceptable quality and condition while rejecting the occasional “bad apple”, this practice is also a good way to keep pests and dirt from finding their way into your kitchen.
To ensure that food that goes in first gets used first and lot numbers are properly recorded, dissolvable food rotation labels such as Cambro’s StoreSafe Labels make it easier to consistently serve the freshest food while reducing waste. StoreSafe labels completely dissolve in the dishwasher or after 30 seconds under running water, leaving no residue behind.
The benefits of a sharp blade go far beyond quicker and easier slicing and dicing. Brace yourself for a little science here. Dull blades have been proven to put more stress on the food at a cellular level, causing electrolyte leakage and increased ethylene production, both of which have a negative impact on texture, color, flavor, and nutritional value. In other words, dull cutting blades lead to shorter shelf life. Click here to see the full report from the study published in the Journal of Food Science.
Sharp, quality knives are vital to prolonging the shelf life of fresh foods and color-coding for safety is a big plus. Valuable components of any HACCP food safety system that are easy for employees to use, the Millennia series by Mercer Culinary are essential prep tools with color-coded handles for dedicated use applications such as produce, poultry, or meats, to reduce risk of cross-contamination.
A reliable knife sharpener can help keep knives working and looking as if they were brand new. Edlund’s Model 401 Electric Knife Sharpener re-creates a factory fresh knife and maintains the integrity of the entire edge, tip to handle, restoring the blade each time it’s sharpened. A precision guidance system helps maintain a perfect edge to sharpen knives from 3 ⁄16″ to cleaver blades and scalloped-edge bread knives.
And most importantly, sharp knives require equally sharp attention to safety. Support kitchen safety while cutting fresh foods with Board Buddyz™, the non-skid cutting board solution recently introduced by Mercer Culinary. These handy gadgets are made of dishwasher safe, non-skid silicone and come in three color-coded sizes to keep cutting boards securely in place during cutting to reduce knife hazards.
Mercer Millenia Colors Cut Gloves offer an additional layer of cutting safety for kitchen staff. The Level A4 Cut Glove is made of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene knit to provide ANSI level A4 cut protection. Heavier-duty cut gloves are also available. All styles are machine washable and made of FDA approved material for food contact.
Keep Out Natural Enemies During Storage
Oxygen, moisture, and enzymes are natural enemies of fresh foods, causing them to degrade more quickly, especially once they’ve been cut. The trick to prolonging a fresh appearance and flavor while maximizing shelf life is to control the food’s environment as much as possible to keep these destructive forces of nature out.
Clear or translucent food storage containers and lids serve the important job of making contents visible. When it’s easy to see what’s inside, how much there is, and what shape it’s in, exposure of contents to air, moisture, and potential contaminants is reduced. The Seal Cover for Cambro food pans is made of translucent polypropylene, so it provides content visibility, a tight seal, and a stable stacking platform all at the same time.
Durable enough for years of use, the Cambro Seal Cover will be around far longer and cost far less over time than disposable foils and films. It’s also been laboratory tested to provide 2-3 extra days of shelf life of produce and proteins, which helps you take advantage of a bumper crop while protecting your inventory until it can be served. Seal Covers for Camsquares and Rounds will produce the same results of extended shelf life, stacking capability and most importantly, protection against cross-contamination.
Farm Fresh Presentation
Now it’s time to show off the fruits of your labor. TableCraft’s Enamelware Collection™ complements farm-to-table fare perfectly, adding a finishing touch of wholesome authenticity. Creamy white dinnerware and serving pieces with a black rim are made of durable porcelain enamel coating on steel.
Whether you’re looking to appeal to health-conscious customers, reduce your carbon footprint, serve authentic, regional cuisine, or all of the above, the farm-to-table model is a gift that keeps on giving within the community. We’d love to help you get started or build on your existing farm-to-table concept. Contact us.