For several years, the local food movement has been gaining some serious momentum. Supermarkets are pushing locally-grown food and restaurants insert “local” into their menus as often as possible.
I have a good friend of mine who proudly and constantly tells me that he is eating local food all of the time. When I hear this, I just kind of shake my head. Why do I have this reaction?
While this issue is very complicated and the circumstances of every single piece food is vastly different, there is a lot more to this than many people realize and “local” isn’t necessarily better.
Yes, local food means that it has traveled a lot less (within 150 miles seems to be the accepted range) than something that has been shipped across the country.
Local also “supposedly” means that the food has been produced in a sustainable manner rather than from some industrial food operation.
But how do we know this? We don’t. There are no standards for local and there is no certification for local. There are, however, strict standards for organic and USDA organic certification.
Unless I am at a farmer’s market where I can look the farmer in the eye and ask him about his production methods, I just don’t know how local food has been produced.
How do I know that the farmer 20 miles away isn’t spraying his kale with toxic pesticides and polluting our water? I don’t. And this matters to me as I am gravely concerned about the abysmal quality of our water supply.
Furthermore, a New York Times op-ed piece by James McWilliams pointed out that lamb shipped from New Zealand to England caused much less impact to global warming than British-produced lamb.
Does this mean we should abandon “local”? Not at all.
This was simply one example and other examples may prove “local” to be much better for the environment.
If I can buy local and organic, that is what I do and it is the best of both worlds.
I want to support local food as much as I can and will buy food at farmer’s markets where I have an incredibly high degree of confidence that the food is grown “cleanly”, even if it is not certified as organic.
1) Local food doesn’t necessarily mean better for the environment. In fact, it could be worse.
2) Local food doesn’t mean organic.
3) Supporting organic production and organic farmers is very important to me.
It goes without saying that local vs. organic is not a cut and dry argument, but I prefer organic over local because there are standards and I know what organic means.