SOURCING & SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability is about managing not only the financial but also the social and environmental impact of a local business. Leon is proud to be a founding member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The association exists to help restaurants become more sustainable in the way they source their ingredients, engage with their local community and manage their impact on the environment. The restaurant industry has a huge impact on the food chain - restaurants account for almost half of what the British spend on food and if we behave more sustainably, this will eventually trickle down through the food production system, with enormous consequences for the way we farm and eat.
This is currently how we score on the SRA rating (2015):
|Local & Seasonal||60%|
|Ethical Meat & Dairy||65%|
|Environmentally positive farming||41%|
|Treating People Fairly||80%|
We currently have 2 stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
FROM FARMS WE TRUST
One of our aims when we set up Leon was to serve food that we would eat and that we would be happy to feed our children. These are some of the things that we think are important to know.
- All our meat is British, apart from our Spanish Chorizo (because it's our favourite) and to at least Red Tractor accreditation. We buy our meat from farms we trust and make two visits to farms each year.
- The pork in our sausages, bacon and ham hock are UK Freedom Food. The pork in our chorizo is from Spain and is similar to Red Tractor standard.
- All our eggs are free-range, including any eggs used within the muffins, tarts and cakes that our bakers make for us. Update: Most of the UK’s hens are currently being housed in barns to protect them from the risk of Avian flu. This means our eggs are, temporarily, not free range. We hope the Government’s Prevention Zone will be lifted in April and our chickens can once again roam free.
- We buy fair trade and/or organic products where we think that there is a clear ethical, environmental or health benefit, and where we are able to sell the product at a price within reach of most people (not just the affluent few). Our coffee is fair-trade & organic (as well as contributing to the World Land Trust) and our milk and porridge oats are organic. Organic milk has been shown in many tests to have more nutrients and better fats than non-organic milk.
About two years ago, we started the process to remove nitrates in our chorizo. We worked closely with our supplier to produce a natural chorizo which fits with our values of ingredient quality and taste. It took considerable time, resource and a lot of tastings, but we’re proud to say we got there in the end.
The LEON chorizo is made from pork which our supplier sources locally from farms in Catalonia. It is not only free from nitrates but is lower in salt than its commercial cousins. It contains only six ingredients: pork, garlic, cayenne, paprika and salt. It is baked on site in Catalonia by our farmer friends who then allow it to dry naturally before shipping it directly to us. When we get it into our restaurants we bake it rather than fry it before putting it in your dish.
Sourcing Chicken has been one of the hardest things that we have had to deal with. We now use Red Tractor accredited chicken and visit the farms twice a year. We agree that they will give us a list of the sheds and we can pick sheds at random to visit. So the visits are effectively unannounced.
When we first opened, we had free-range chicken on the menu. We then moved to Freedom food as free-range was pushing us into a price bracket that was making us exclusive. We have always wanted to make it easy for everyone to eat good food and this means we have to be competitively priced.
But soon freedom food also began to become a problem. It was increasingly hard for us to get a reliable supply and the price increased considerably. A substantial number of our customers were complaining about our prices and the size of dishes. Meanwhile our main competitors were using Red Tractor, Brazilian chicken, or chicken from Eastern Europe. We asked ourselves three questions:
- Would we eat Red Tractor chicken?
There are three factors here: Does it taste good? Would we feed it to our children? Are we comfortable with how the birds are treated? We felt that the answer was yes to all of these. We visited the farms and felt that they had room, daylight and were well looked after.
- Is it sustainable?
Red Tractor is as sustainable as free-range - it actually has a lower carbon footprint. We all need to eat less meat, however, and we are working on including more vegetarian dishes in our menus.
- What was more important to our overall desire to make it easy for everyone to eat good food? Keeping freedom food, or making the dishes about £1 cheaper.
We believed the latter. We discussed the options with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, but could not see a way in which we could compete in the mainstream without making the change. It is different when you are dealing with a chain - somewhere you go every day - vs. a destination restaurant.
As we said above, we visit the farms on which our chickens are reared and believe the farmers are excellent. The standards are higher than some of the Freedom Food chickens we have seen in the past. We will continue to visit them (unannounced) twice a year.
We currently source 2 types of fish for our menu:
- Cod (in our fish fingers)
Line caught from sustainable Icelandic shoals. They are rated 2 on the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) 'Fish to Eat, Fish to Avoid' scale.
- Smoked Salmon
As of April 2016, we source our salmon from Wester Ross, Scotland's oldest, independent, owner-operated salmon farm, where all the farming is done by hand. The farm reduces pressure on wild fish stocks through innovative organic fish feed and gives the salmon plenty of room to grow up healthy without the use of antibiotics or growth promoters. The salmon are Kosher Certified and the cure is sugar free.
Wester Ross value its salmon welfare. Being hand reared means that it is the salmon farmers, not machines or cameras, who are out on the water every day to feed and observe the fish. The salmon are certified Freedom Food, a rigorous animal welfare standard of the RSPCA, and are also certified by Friend of the Sea. The farm has been endorsed by the Scottish Industry Code of Good Practices.
In summary, The Marine Conservation Society's 'Fish to Eat, Fish to Avoid' scale ratings are:
You can see the full rating definitions here.
We love bees. And we love their honey, which is rich in vital life-giving nutrients. But not all honeys are created equal; the best ones are the raw, unheated, unprocessed ones. That's why we use raw, organic honey from a British company, Hilltop, based in Montgomeryshire, Wales. It has been harvested from wildflower meadows and trees in certified organic lands in Europe. It maintains its nutrients and is possibly the purest way to eat honey as neither the bees nor the flowers they gather nectar from have been exposed to harsh chemicals.
At LEON, we believe that the future of the planet depends on protecting the bee population and we love that Hilltop works with the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, giving 5% of their profits to help bees and other wildlife across the region. They run an 'adopt a bee' scheme, to feed bees and help them to survive the winter months.
The bulk of our bespoke packaging is biodegradable. We want to make this the case for all our packaging.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
Because we make our food fresh daily, we sometimes have some left overs. If you know of a charity near to any of our restaurants that would like to pick these up, please let us know.
WHEELS TO THE RESTAURANTS
We constantly work to reduce the number of vehicles involved in our food supply chain.
- Over the last 2 years we have reduced the number of suppliers that deliver fresh food to our restaurants to 3.
- 99% of our product is now delivered overnight or very early in the morning, this has reduced the time taken to make deliveries and has reduced fuel consumption by vehicles being able to make the most direct and economical route.
- As little packaging as possible is used in our supply chain and any food wastage is kept to a minimum.
If you'd like to know more about our sustainability and sourcing we'd love to have a chat about it. Just email us and we'll be in touch.