Sustainable Efforts from 5 UTC Restaurants You Wouldn’t Have Expected

Alyssa Naigan
Oct 29, 2021 · 5 min read

By Helena San Roque

A steaming burger with onions and buttery brioche bread, grilled fish drizzled in teriyaki sauce, and a fresh chicken salad — they all sound delicious. But are our favorite foods truly sustainable? Are our go-to restaurants doing their part to ethically source ingredients? Are their suppliers committed to a more sustainable approach to agriculture?

Food waste is inevitable, but there are options for the everyday person to reduce their carbon footprint with every order. Here is a list of well-known restaurants around the University Town Center (UTC) and their efforts to alleviate environmental and social challenges in agriculture. I have provided links to each company’s website as well as some of their suppliers:

  1. Slapfish

Website: https://www.slapfishrestaurant.com/restaurant/irvine-ca/ca

Website(s) of Supplier: Seafood for the Future , Verlasso Salmon, Regal Springs Tilapia

According to researcher Richard Waite from the World Resources Institute (WRI), “Fish and shellfish are already among the most eco-friendly sources of animal protein.” The mission of Slapfish is rooted in environmental concern. Their message? “To get people to eat more seafood… it can be incredibly sustainable.” In fact, the company’s suppliers speak to this message.

For example, Seafood for the Future — a fish supplier for Slapfish and a conversation program at the Aquarium of the Pacific — stated on their website “we work with many stakeholders to develop tools and solutions to support a more sustainable, resilient, and nutritious food future.” What exactly does this mean? Sea Food for the Future partners with various programs to educate the public about aquaculture and seafood.

One of these programs include “Storied Seafood” — an archive of fish species and their impacts on the ocean supply chain. Another program called “Ocean to Table: Stories of Food, Farming, and Conservation” is an educational video series that documents the people whose work supports the health of marine life and responsible aquaculture.

As overfishing becomes “one of the most serious threats to our oceans,” according to the Environmental Defense Fund, it is important to be aware of poor fishing management, which is often subject to little regulation. Despite this, suppliers, such as Seafood for the Future, are a valuable public resource for those who are interested in learning about sustainable fishing practices.

2. Eureka!

Website: https://eurekarestaurantgroup.com/locations/irvine

Websites of Supplier(s): Santa Carota Beef

As a burger joint, Eureka! may not seem like a potential candidate to the regular person. Although beef may not be as sustainable as other animal products in terms of total water consumption — according to The Beef Cattle Institute, 1,675 gallons of water are used to produce 1 lb. of beef, as opposed to 257 gallons used to produce 1 lb. of poultry — the way cows are raised can be optimized. Eureka’s supplier — Santa Carota Beef — takes an unconventional approach to raising their cattle.

Instead of feeding cattle grass throughout the whole raising process, which is the time taken to rear cattle into adulthood, they are fed with a 95% carrot diet “that’s sourced from local farms’ leftovers,” according to a food writer from InsideHook, a New York based magazine publication. According to the founder of Holy Grail Steak Company, Cameron Hughes, what makes this practice more sustainable is that “they’re taking the pieces of the production that don’t have a home and upcycling it.” If cattle feed primarily relies on leftover carrots, this could lower the amount of water needed for grass feed production. In turn, this would lower the overall water consumption the beef industry consumes.

According to Santa Carota’s website, “cattle are never fed a lot” and have the “benefit of free choice on open ground.” Aside from critiques of consuming too much water, the beef industry also uses a large amount of land. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “25% of global land use, land-use change and forestry emissions are driven by beef production…” Still, the organization holds that “beef production also provides benefits by sustaining livelihoods and community vibrancy in rural areas where grasslands dominate.”

3. Blue Bowl

Website: https://www.mybluebowl.com

If you’re around the UTC, you might have spotted students carrying bowls full of granola, strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt — along with a plethora of other superfoods — drizzled in agar nectar from the new acai bowl bar known as “Blue Bowl.” Although Blue Bowl is a much smaller company than some of the other restaurants mentioned, the chain has strived to source locally and reduce the use of cheap plastic items. When I contacted the company via email, a member from Team Blue Bowl stated in writing:

“We absolutely do care about sustainability. While some of our food products are specific to other regions of the world (e.g. acai from Brazil) we do buy locally whenever available. As an example of this, we have personally built relationships with our California almond supplier and have made multiple visits to their California farm and processing plant. Additionally, we continue to use sustainable non-plastic bowls and spoons that cost significantly more than generic plastic options.”

4. Chipotle

Website: https://www.chipotle.com/about-us/sustainability(PDF Download)

Websites of Supplier(s): Niman Ranch, Petaluma Creamery, Meister Cheese, and McKaskle Family Farm

Chipotle has partnered with suppliers devoted to addressing social, environmental, and agriculture issues — highlighting people over profits. The company’s website details their achieved goals, which included “purchasing over 28 million pounds of Organic and Transitional ingredients.”

According to Chipotle’s 2020 sustainability report, some of their new goals are to “continue to increase the total pounds of produce purchased from local farmers”; “develop and pilot at least one new plant-based protein offering by the end of 2021”; and “partner with our growers to convert over 400 acres of conventional farmland to organic farmland.”

Niman Ranch, the company’s beef supplier, has a “three-fold” approach to sustainability, focusing on its environmental, social, and economic aspects. For Niman Ranch, “sustainability isn’t just in the way we preserve the land, it’s in the families that preserve the land for us.”

5. Chick-fil-A

Website: 2019 Chick-fil-A Corporate Social Responsibility Report.pdf (PDF Download here)

While eating that crispy chicken sandwich, you wouldn’t have guessed that the popular fast food joint publishes its own “Corporate Social Responsibility Report.” Within this report, a page titled “Caring for Our Planet” details efforts, such as more recyclable packaging and plastic reduction in utensils. Chick-fil-A’s stance on sustainability is as follows:

“To preserve our planet for generations to come we are increasingly focused on introducing sustainability-minded programs… We successfully diverted 100 percent of our edible food waste by donating unused food through our Chick-fil-A Shared Table program and by dehydrating and composting inedible food waste.”

Since customers are a driving force for accountability, I encourage everyone to be conscious about how their favorite restaurants contribute to issues regarding agriculture:

Don’t be afraid to email your favorite restaurant about who their suppliers are. Check if they’re investing in biodegradable packaging — or bring your own reusable container. There are plenty of ways to participate in the progression of food sustainability — no matter how big or small.

References:

Bleier, Evan “What So Special About Carrot-Fed Santa Carota Beef?”

https://www.insidehook.com/article/food-and-drink/santa-carota-carrot-fed-beef-carnivore-wish-list

Singh, Maanvi “Can Farmed Fish Feed the World Without Destroying the Environment?” NPR

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/06/06/319247280/can-farmed-fish-feed-the-world-without-destroying-the-environment

“Does Beef Production Really Use That Much Water?”

https://ksubci.org/2020/11/16/does-beef-production-really-use-that-much-water/

“World WildLife Fund: Beef Industries”

https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/beef

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