When food comes to the table, the furthest people think it is the kitchen. However, in actuality, food goes through several steps before making its way into your kitchen or the restaurant. This concept may be surprising because very few people know about the supply chain, which is food’s journey from the farm to you, the consumer. The food we consume does not always come from the local supply; in some cases, the food could travel thousands of miles before it reaches the consumer.
When food travels long distances, it does not fit the local supply chain meaning it undergoes various shipments before getting to the grocery store then the consumer. On the other hand, the supply chain is quick, with the food going through five suppliers before it is delivered to the customer. Even when the farm is local, the farmer does not directly deliver it to the store. From the farm, the food will go to the processing center, regional distributor, local retailer then the consumer, respectively.
1- Food production
The supply food chain starts on the farm with the farmer. Growing and harvesting are the significant roles played by the farmer; they oversee the food. Whether it is growing fresh produce, working with animals, or a fish farm, they will oversee the production and harvesting. The farmer can employ the help of experts like agriculture engineers to assist them in ensuring the farms work to produce their best.
2- Food processing
Once the product is ready, it is harvested and taken to a processing plant. In processing, the food is screened for contamination and then packaged for purchase. There are safety measures in place in the processing plant to ensure handling, packaging, and storing the food. Safety at this stage ensures the food is not contaminated with bacteria that could spoil the food or cause illnesses to the consumer.
3- Food distribution
Distribution ensures all the food gets to the right place and within the right time. As straightforward as that sounds, many variables come to play when distributing food. Part of the reason consumers lean into the farm-to-table movement is because of the freshness of the food. Delivering fresh food dramatically relies on the quickness and efficiency of the consumers. Like milk, meat, and fruits, some foods are highly perishable; thus, it calls for urgent delivery once processed. Additionally, there are handling requirements to consider during the journey from farm to store to ensure the food’s safety and quality.
4- Local retailer
The retailer is what connects the consumer to the distributors. It could be your local grocery store, café, restaurant, or bar. Retailers usually are within the clients’ reach, meaning access to the food is easy. Restaurants and stores are examples of retailers however they each supply the food differently to the consumer. With stores, you get to purchase the food, prep it, and have it at home, whereas the restaurants prepare it for you and bring it to the table when ready. In the case of vegetables, consumers can find them in grocery stores or the market. Some retailers have physical stores, while others sell vegetables online.
5- Consumer’s table
After going through the four stages, the food is finally on the consumer’s table. Healthy practices at this stage are vital. When handling, prepping and consuming the food, you need to be extra careful to ensure no contamination. Wash the food properly, clean your hands, prepare it at proper temperatures and ensure the utensils are clean. You can never be too safe when it comes to your health.
In recent years the demand for locally sourced food has surged. Many local areas are embracing locally grown food from restaurants to grocery stores as the experience is almost magical. It is not only supporting local businesses, but the food is also fresh. The term farm-to-table has become the pride of many, but the depth is a wonder to many. This price can finally give consumers a peek into the mystery of understanding how the process starts and ends.