Seasonal produce update: Winter

Industry Insights
With the seasons changing, we spoke to some of our suppliers from key categories to get insights into seasonal produce and how to incorporate them into your menu planning. 

Fruit & Veg update from Sydney Direct Fresh

“With the varying climates between Far North Queensland and Victoria, we benefit from having a large selection of produce available all year round.” Daniel Flamminio from MD Provodores (now In2Food) tells us. Regardless, seasons are still a thing and there are specific fruit & vegetables that are higher quality and more cost effective during the autumn and winter months. For example, “whilst Mangoes and Watermelons can be found 12 months of the year, you will find prices increase by an average of 15% when it’s out of season.” So it definitely pays to ensure your menu is using seasonal fruit & veg, to save on your food costs.

Coming into the cooler months of the year, we’re starting the see a change in availability, quality and prices for the following: 

  • Artichokes - Jerusalem, Globes, Baby Globe
  • Mushrooms - all varieties but in particular pine mushrooms
  • Truffles - these will be in prime season from the first week of June
  • Heirloom cauliflowers - your vibrant purple and green (Romanesco) cauliflowers
  • Beans - perfect time of year for beans, whilst your green variety is available all year round, you’ll start seeing better quality Borlotti, Butter and Broad beans over the next couple of months.

Seafood update from Ocean Made Seafood 

Funnily enough the best time of year for seafood is through the winter months, Jason Collins-Smith from Melbourne-based wholesale seafood supplier - Ocean Made Seafood, tells me. “Colder waters tend to yield a better quality fish..” so whilst it may not be particularly ‘on-trend’ to have a larger number of seafood items on your menu during winter, you really shouldn’t turn your back on seafood during the colder months!

Obviously it very much depends on your venue but there are some solid seafood dishes that are lovely, warming meals - from a seafood bisque to a fish pie or curry. Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your seafood dishes: 

  • Oysters - we’re coming into the best time of year for Oysters, make sure you keep an eye on Pacific Oysters 
  • Crabs - Blue Swimmer crabs will be coming back into season, and whilst Mud Crabs are available all year round, you’ll find them slightly cheaper than during the summer months
  • Fish - wild Barramundi will be back from April - August, with Flounder and Bay Flounder coming in as well. You’ll still be able to get your Blue Eye Cod, Coral Trout, Mullaway, Gold Band Snapper and Red Emperor’s from different parts of Australia.

Meat update from Mastercut Meats

Australia is facing the lowest cattle numbers since the early 70s, due to historic drought periods and more recently extreme flooding. This has left farmers trying to protect their livelihoods by holding onto stock for breeding purposes. “All of these factors are pushing red meat prices to an all-time high”, Melody Price-Dawson from Mastercut Meats tells us. Plus contrary to popular opinion - “Australia is still exporting large quantities of meat to an international market that is willing to pay more and upfront.”

Supply is limited at the moment and cuts of meat that have previously been deemed ‘secondary’ or ‘cheaper’ aren’t actually as cheap as we may remember.” Your standard winter cuts are still popular, with venues opting to order beef cheeks, lamb shanks, veal shanks, pork belly, oxtail and osso bucco during the colder months. However keep in mind that with popularity comes issues with supply and demand, so “expect to pay up to $2 more per kilo for lamb shanks during the winter months” Melody advises. 

When it comes to planning your menu Melody has a couple of tips to offer:

  1. Ensure that you have a menu that is flexible to allow for changing meat prices or availability. If your menu is flexible, then you’ll have a greater chance of keeping your costs down.
  2. Continually communicate with your supplier and ensure they’re able to consistently supply what you need, at the right price. 
  3. If you need ‘bone out’ cuts, then buy ‘bone out’ portion cuts! Whilst some chefs believe that buying ‘bone in’ cuts are slightly cheaper, this may not be the case after you factor in labour costs and potential wastage for de-boning in house.

To keep your finger on the pulse open or log in to your Foodbomb account to keep an eye on pricing changes over the next couple of months.


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