Cracker Barrel's Ingredients Are Sourced With More Care Than You Might Think

While you might expect a local diner or family-owned restaurant to use ingredients from local suppliers, you can't assume the same of a national restaurant chain. If you ate a burger from McDonald's for example, you wouldn't expect the lettuce and tomatoes to come from the local farmer's market, or the buns to be baked from scratch every single day. That's where Cracker Barrel is different.

Almost all of the meat, eggs, dairy, and produce used in its kitchens is grown or raised on American soil, which is a rarity for a restaurant as big as Cracker Barrel, with over 650 locations in 45 states across the U.S. Unlike Cracker Barrel, many other large restaurant chains instead opt to source ingredients from elsewhere because it's cheaper in the long run and the process is more streamlined. To many, the quality of the food from these restaurants tends to be lower as a result. However, that's less likely to be an issue at Cracker Barrel because of its sourcing practices.

Why Cracker Barrel uses homegrown ingredients

When Dan Evins opened the first Cracker Barrel location in 1969, it was simply a restaurant along a Tennessee highway where travelers could stop for a bite to eat. Despite its unassuming beginnings, Cracker Barrel grew into a popular destination, which had a lot to do with the relatively high quality of the food and the chain's emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients.

Considering Cracker Barrel's use of more local food contributed to its success and growth, it makes sense that the restaurant chain would continue drawing on homegrown ingredients in its restaurants. Although the menu has changed through the years, the source of the ingredients and the care with which they are transformed remains very much the same. To this day, the beef (from American-raised cattle, of course) is slow-roasted for 18 hours, while the biscuits are prepared fresh in each restaurant every 15 to 20 minutes.

There's one type of food that isn't sourced in the U.S.

If you compare the original Cracker Barrel menu to the current one, you'll see some of the same staples on the list, like steak and eggs as well as biscuits and gravy. However, you'll likely notice that the seafood section wasn't around in the restaurant's early days. Today, however, you can order meals that include fried cod, catfish, trout, and shrimp.

Given that fried seafood is a Southern staple, it's no surprise these options were added to the menu, but not all of these fish are caught in American waters. On the menu, Cracker Barrel states that the catfish comes from U.S. farms, and revealed on its website that the cod comes from north Atlantic and Pacific waters. However Cracker Barrel only describes the trout as being sourced "from fresh spring water," and Cracker Barrel VP Cammie Spillyards-Schaefer confirmed to Today in 2018 that the shrimp isn't sourced in the U.S. Regardless of whether or not a Cracker Barrel is located in a coastal city, the restaurant still won't have local shrimp. That's because, according to Spillyards-Schaefer, it simply can't be purchased in bulk like Cracker Barrel's other ingredients.