Swiss restaurants go for better taste

Diners in Bern's Obstberg restaurant

A new campaign to encourage restaurants to serve more environmentally friendly food is proving a big success in Switzerland.

This content was published on September 14, 2002 - 10:44

The "Goût Mieux" or "Taste Better" campaign, is organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature, and is the first of its kind in Europe.

Dozens of restaurants have already joined the project, with more set to follow.

The WWF offers a seal of approval to participating restaurants. In return, they are required to serve three official "Goût Mieux" menus each day.

Jennifer Zimmermann, project manager for WWF, says the goal of the campaign is make both restaurateurs and customers more aware of how their choice of food affects the environment.

"When we eat we have a very big influence on our environment," she told swissinfo. "So if we choose products that protect the environment we can have a positive effect."

Local, seasonal, organic

What this means is that restaurants joining "Goût Mieux" must serve organic food, and meat from free-range animals.

"So no lobsters," explains Zimmermann, "and no frogs' legs."

Equally important is the stipulation that the fruit and vegetables on offer are in season locally.

"We shouldn't be eating apples from New Zealand or asparagus from Mexico," says Zimmermann, "and we really don't need strawberries in February."

The reasoning behind this is that it is not good for the environment to transport, usually by plane, fresh produce half way around the world just to satisfy the jaded palates of consumers in the developed world.

"So in summer we can eat cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and so on," says Zimmermann. "And in winter things like carrots, potatoes, or cabbage."

No limit to good taste

These regulations sound limiting, but in fact lunch at one of the participating restaurants, the Obstberg in Bern, proved this to be far from the case.

The "Goût Mieux" menu of the day offered organic pork fillet in a cream sauce, served with giant ravioli stuffed with seasonal vegetables.

"Our customers are delighted," restaurant manager Regula Minder told swissinfo. "And we've even had other restaurants phoning us up asking how they can join the project."

Minder believes it is important for restaurateurs like herself to combine pleasing customers with looking after the environment.

"Of course good quality meat and vegetables are important," she said. "But I don't just mean good for people, I mean good for earth, for the soil, and good for the animals."

European ambitions

The "Goût Mieux" project already has 40 participating restaurants in German- speaking Switzerland, with more joining each day.

And the Manor chain in the French-speaking region is expected to come on board shortly, with 28 outlets across the country.

"We started this project in Switzerland because we know Swiss consumers are very aware of the environment," said Zimmermann.

"But obviously we hope Goût Mieux will spread across Europe and even the world," she continued.

"For the moment though, we are happy that it is doing so well here in Switzerland."

swissinfo, Imogen Foulkes

Environmental food

A new campaign is trying to tempt Swiss diners to eat more environmentally-friendly food.

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