A bitter reality
Choose local food for the taste? Sure. But if you’re convinced you’re saving the world, think again.
By Tom Keane
June 28, 2009
“Local food’’ is all the rage, touted by adherents as offering better food, an environmentally responsible lifestyle, and self-sufficient communities. The first of those claims is sometimes true. Local tomatoes and corn may well taste better than those from afar. Beyond that, though, the local food movement is an affectation based on bad logic and bad economics, one that, widely adopted, would actually harm the environment and potentially impoverish millions. Particularly here in New England, it would also turn mealtimes into dull, pallid affairs.
Luckily, chances are slim that most of us will become ardent “locavores” (the most extreme of whom will eat only foods sourced within 100 miles of their homes). We like bananas and pineapples, want fresh vegetables year round, and enjoy olive oil and balsamic vinegar on our salads. Principles have their limits, and even as we might pay homage to the wonders of local foods, most of us are not about to give up those or the myriad other things we eat and drink that have to travel a distance.
And that’s not a problem, because local food is not greener food. Locavores’ green claims rest on the seemingly obvious assumption that transporting foods a long distance is environmentally taxing. But, in fact, shipping is a small portion of the total carbon footprint of any foodstuff, averaging just 4 percent, according to a 2008 Carnegie Mellon University analysis. It’s the production of the food itself that is far more damaging, and it’s here that the mega-farms some decry have an edge. They produce more with fewer people, can effectively use machinery, are located in places where conditions are ideal for growing, and have the skills and know-how to maximize food production per acre. That’s the reason local tomatoes are so much more expensive than those shipped from California and Florida: They are more resource-intensive to produce. Read More
The local food movement has benefitted mostly from the romanticized idea rather than reality. This article does a fantastic job of exposing the consequences of the movement. There are so many people that refuse to look at the big picture when it comes to producing food. All food is local to someone and not all food can be raised everywhere. The local food movement, if taken fully to fruition, could very well wipe out rural America. Due to consumer’s misunderstandings, more harm than good can occur. There are benefits and drawbacks to every type of production system.