Here at Meat Close To Home, as you can probably tell, locality is our main focus. And we think, on the whole, eateries in Cardiff who serve local, Welsh meat do so very well.
But in the course of visiting a few restaurants in the city, it has become apparent that not everyone means the same thing when they say they serve local produce.
We recognise how the term is open to interpretation and has a certain degree of flexibility. It could come from your town, county or from the same geographical region you live in.
The above steaks were bought from my butcher not even five minutes’ walk from my house. Talk about close to home, ey.
We certainly expect anyone in Cardiff advertising locally-sourced meat to be serving Welsh meat, even if it isn’t from South Wales.
So, what exactly does local mean when it comes to describing meat?
Meat Close To Home asked a few residents of Cardiff what they expect from this description. Click below to hear their views:
Sadly, there is no legislation which defines what ‘local’ means, but what it doesn’t address in terms of locality, it more than makes up for it when it comes to traceability.
The Food Standards Agency’s Country of Origin Labelling Guidance says Regulation 5(f) of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, requires food that is ready for delivery to the ultimate consumer or to a catering establishment to be labelled with “particulars of the place of origin or provenance of the food, if failure to give such particulars might mislead a purchaser to a material degree as to the true origin or provenance of the food.”
There is no statutory definition of the ‘place of origin or provenance’ in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996, but the labelling guidance says “it is deemed to be the place of last substantial change.
“The transformation of pork into sausages, bacon, ham or pies should be regarded as a treatment of process resulting in a substantial change, while the simple slicing, cutting, mincing and packing of meat does not amount to such a change.”
Are these descriptions just a form of expression?
Their advice goes on to detail what sort of illustrations on a food label could lead buyers to think they come from a different place to their real country of origin, such as the “use of country or places names in the name of the food or in its trade or brand name, maps, emblems [like a shamrock], choice of colour [like the colours of a country’s flag], referring to persons associated with a particular place [like the Queen] and famous landmarks.”
Meat Close To Home thinks the most important part of this guidance to point out is the following example: “Pork sausages made in Britain using pork from countries outside the UK are not described as ‘British pork sausages’. Instead they could bear the name ‘Pork Sausages’ and if helpful, a further declaration could be made, such as ‘Made in Britain from Dutch Pork’.”
Also, “for many consumers, terms like ‘British’, ‘Scottish’ or Welsh’ [among others] imply that the place of processing and the origin of ingredients are the same.”
So in other words, if it’s raised and butchered in Scotland, but sold in Wales, that isn’t enough to be able to call it Welsh meat.
How does the food industry define what a Welsh burger really is?
Gareth Simpson, RCMA Cardiff Farmers’ Market’s enterprise officer, said: “Local sourcing can be very easy. The majority of our butchers deliver directly to restaurants so it’s like the country is coming to the city.
“If you’re branding something as Welsh when it isn’t, then you’re just passing it off. There’s no excuse for it.
“We are happy to signpost anyone who wants to get involved in locally sourcing to the right people.”
Cardiff’s local food scene, on the whole, seems to be top notch, but are we all on the same page?
Jordan Harris, the man behind The Grill & Barrel meat and ale blog, and founder of waffle pop-up Drunken Sailor (more on that later!) questions the real reason restaurants use local meat.
He asked: “Do restaurants use local meat because they can guarantee support for local farmers and butchers and to offer their consumers a true taste of Wales, or do they do it for marketing purposes?
Jordan added: “The whole ‘local’ label is a bit of a buzzword in the food industry at the moment and consumers get turned on when they see they are eating something produced right here in Cardiff or the surrounding area.
“Local isn’t always the defining factor in quality.”
“Someone with nothing to hide will be able to tell you where their meat comes from straight off the bat. A restaurant who doesn’t know, or won’t tell you, clearly has no idea how local their food is.”
Jordan is also keen to emphasise locality doesn’t necessarily matter, but traceability definitely does.
He added: “Hogwurst [on North Road, Cardiff], for example, source their frankfurters from Native Breeds [in Gloucestershire] which people may not see as local because they aren’t operating this side of the Severn, but they are things of wonder.
“Some top restaurants in London source their products from Native Breeds, which is testament to the quality. It shows that ‘local’ isn’t always the defining factor in quality.”
So, are we any closer to establishing exactly what ‘local’ means?
Well, we know meat which is produced in one country but sold in another should be clearly labelled.
Also, customers shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask farmers, butchers and restaurants where their meat comes from, who raised it, what their diet was, who butchered it and even where it is going to be sold.
If they can’t, or won’t, tell you, perhaps the best course of action would be to not give them your time of day. Or money.
Stay tuned for the second part of our investigation into what local really means, where we will be approaching restaurants in Cardiff to ask them to define exactly what they mean when they market local or Welsh meat.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject! What qualities do you expect meat to have if it is described as being local?