“The term ‘organic’ has become so watered down as to be almost meaningless,” says Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen and the Bent Brick in Portland. Over and over, chefs told us that ingredients from their local sources are farmed using organic methods, yet organic certification is cost-prohibitive for most of these small farms. So rather than buy certified organic, the LA-based salad mini-chain Tender Greens’ co-owner Erik Oberholtzer is one of many restaurateurs focusing on “supporting small, local farmers with whom we have direct relations with and trust the practices they employ.” There are taste implications too. “Organic food can come from anywhere and will often make a long trip on a truck, train, or airplane to its final destination,” says Chef Jacob Cureton of the Range Kitchen in San Diego, “therefore reducing its shelf-life and nutritional value.” Executive Chef Manuel Trevino of Marble Lane in New York sums it up: “Why buy organic if it comes from across the world and leaves a gigantic eco footprint behind?”
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