Many people have experienced food scarcity and avoided restaurants this past year. If COVID-19 has made one thing clear, it’s how reliant all of our different industries are upon one another. That’s true of the food industry as well as any other field. The relationship between farmers and restaurants is a symbiotic one, and it’s one that can have a dramatic impact on both our overall economy and what you actually find on your plate when you place a restaurant order. The farm industry in particular has an obvious effect on the restaurant industry, but some of these effects may surprise you. Here are just a few of the ways the farm industry can impact what ends up on your plate when you go out to eat.
It Can Survive a Lot of Strain
The restaurant industry can be surprisingly resilient, even when farms struggle. One thing that 2020 has demonstrated is that the supply chains that get food from the farms to restaurants and grocery stores are incredibly resilient. This is largely thanks to the increasingly global nature of the farming processes and their supply chain. Fortunately, a majority of primary crops are dispersed throughout the world, and that means that most restaurants will have fallback systems that ensure they can get what they need in case of a global crisis or a change in the market. This is in part due to technological advances in farming equipment, which support effective maintenance of larger tracts of land in areas that might not be ideal for growing crops—or for growing a particular type of crop.
But Specialty Crops Are in Shorter Supply
However, as farmers struggle, specialty crops tend to fall by the wayside first. Supply follows demand, and that means that staple crops are always going to take a priority over more extravagant luxury items. In a time of famine or disaster, more and more farms are going to revert their production towards staple crops, and these staple crops will be prioritized by the links in the supply line. Corn, potatoes, and rice are always going to be in ready supply for that reason, but what luxury products are available will largely depend on conditions in more concentrated regions. Take region-specific foods like Kobe beef and regionally-specific French wine. Droughts or other conditions in these areas can dramatically affect what restaurants have access to.
And Your Eating Choices Have an Effect
That said, the line goes both ways. Farmers won’t get paid if restaurants don’t have demand for what they’re growing. That means that critics and acclaimed chefs have a lot of control over both the trends in the restaurant industry and the crops that are actually being grown by farms. But ultimately, what restaurants are serving comes down to the customer. Whether you’re concerned about ethical farming practices or simply curious about restaurant trends, the places you choose to patronize have an impact all the way down the supply chain.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan