Happy New Year

2010 is fast approaching and each new decade provides opportunity to reflect.   In my own family we are eating differently today than we were in 1999.

In the decades leading up to Y2K, food producers focused most of their effort on maximizing production abilities.  I recall a trip to a country fair 15 years ago where I met a farmer who bragged  about the fact that his milk cow today was able to produce 2-5 times the amount of milk than the same breed of cow produced in the 1950’s.  Even then, something about this fact deeply disturbed me.  How did they get this creature to produce so much more milk today?  Well, we all know the answer;  growth hormones, antibiotics and enhanced animal feed.  And we also know this has lead to a host of other problems for human health, the health of the environment and the health of the poor cow!

Trend #1 – A move away from animal products that have been raised with the use of hormones, antibiotics, and other production enhancing aids.

ken stewart

Ken Stewart from Fitzroy Beef Farmers

At the Red Apron we cook using a number of heritage breeds of meat, specifically pork.  We have had the great pleasure of discovering Berkshire and Tamworth, both known to be rugged old breeds that can survive our climate.

Trend #2:  The resurgence of interest in of ancient, heritage and old breeds – both animal breeds and plant species.

For the last 30 years we have been punishing our bodies with low fat, low carb, high carb, low fibre, high protien, low protien diets of every shape and form.  Meanwhile, North Americans have continued to get fatter and to develop higher incidents of diabetes and heart disease.  While we diet ourselves into the grave, the  French, and those living in the Mediterranean continue to experience lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower incidents of cardiovascular disease.

Trend #3:  The realization that fat is not the enemy, and that some fats are good for you!

Recent discoveries lead us to understand that fat is not the culprit we believed it to be, but the types of fat we consume is really more important.  In fact a relatively high fat (full of Omega rich foods), moderate protein, and high fiber diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, might be just what we need to keep us slim, and healthy.

Fine dining restaurants are unapologetically putting high fat cuts of meat on the menu and patrons are gobbling it up.  Pork belly, fois gras, slowly braised beef short ribs, briskets, BBQ pork shoulder and much, much more….  This has also lead to an increased interest in cuts of meet that the butcher had a hard time selling 20 years ago.

Trend #4:  Fatty meat, preferably ‘on the bone’, tastes good, and can enjoyed, like all things, in moderation.

Pesticides, herbicides, mono-crops, all this is bad.  We understand now that it is not sustainable, and it certainly isn’t healthy.

Trend# 5: Our willingness to pay more for Organically raised/grown produce, preferably sourced from a local farmer or producer.

red apron farmers market

Red Apron at the Farmer's Market

We now have a real, truly local, Farmer’s market located in the heart of the city, and many thriving small community farmer’s markets in surrounding towns and villages.  The face of these markets has changed considerably.  Alongside people who have been farming the land for 100 years, we see a new crop of farmers; fresh faced back to the earth types, committed to an organic and/or biodynamic existence.  We now have organizations like ‘Just Food’ and ‘Savour Ottawa’ to help facilitate relationships between local food establishments and local producers.

With this trend towards organics, we also see a move away from anything overly processed, refined and stripped of it’s nutrients.

Trend #6:  If it’s white or processed, don’t eat it!

Now, we can only enjoy it if it’s whole grain and full of complexity and taste.  This has given rise to some really faboulous local bakeries, including our new neighbour, True Loaf,  who specialize in whole grain (wheat, kamut, spelt) and sourdough breads, that bear no resemblance to the fluffy white ‘Wonder-breads’ of 20 years ago.

This doesn’t only apply to bread and flour.  White sugar has been replaced by honey, maple syrup, and agave.  Milk chocolate has been replaced with organic & fair trade dark chocolate.  Corn puffs are replaced with Kashi.  White potatoes have been replaced with heirloom blue & red potatoes, or sweet potatoes and squash.

Much of the consumer momentum driving these trends is the aging of the Boomers, or as they are now sometimes called – the Zoomers (boomers with zip).  We have an aging but active, healthy, well-educated and somewhat affluent consumer who is willing to invest in ‘growing old with grace and dignity’. This important demographic has the disposable income and the good taste to continue to drive interest in healthy but sophisticated food.

We wish you a very Happy New Year and we look forward to continuing to provide you with healthy, local & organic meals in 2010.