In a recent discussion about the design of restaurant menus with an expert, we were interested to hear that using such sweeping terms as ‘local beef’ is now considered a real no-no. Does local mean it was reared in a nearby field? In the same county? Or does it mean it was reared in Argentina but processed on an industrial estate no more than one hundred miles away?
The smart thing these days, apparently, is to be super-specific: ‘Beef from Red Ruby Devon cows reared by Bob Johnson at West Dunham’.
Most people don’t know what a Red Ruby Devon cow is. They’ve never heard of Bob Johnson or West Dunham. For all they know, Bob could be utterly incompetent, West Dunham a total hole, and his cows diseased bags-of-bones. Nonetheless, the idea is that customers will feel the restaurant is hiding nothing, that it is proud of its ingredients and has a relationship with its supplier. A warm glow will ensue.
The same principle probably applies to beer labelling. We cringe at ‘made with the choicest hops and finest malt’ and its only slightly better, trendier cousin ‘crafted with citrus hops’. Those are evasive, sneaky descriptors with little real content.
‘Made with 2012 West Dunham hops, grown by Bob Johnson in Devon, and Snodsbury malted barley from Timpkins of Steeple Bumpleigh’ is far better. Even a punter to whom specific hop and malt varieties mean nothing will gain a sense of transparency from a description like that. It makes local mean something.