Response to Budiansky on Local Foods Recipe
Eat the best quality whole foods you can - you're worth it!
Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand. ~Emily Kimbrough
Lots of people have asked what MindfulEats things of the Stephan Budiansky oped on locavores in the NYT last week. First of all, we love that people are talking about farming and sustainable growing, so we think it's great! Mr. Budiansky makes some good points for the specialized growing of food.
However, it doesn't quite factor in all the variables to tell the full story. We look at food three ways:
We think there are many kinds of buyers out there, and we want to get whole foods to all of them.
For those that are budget watchers, we agree with Mr. Budiansky that shipping on a large scale is very efficient. The tomatoes shipped from California are going to be the cheapest since they are picked early (before they are ripe) to prevent spoilage then packed on a large scale. They aren't going to the best tasting, but we'd rather get fresh food (even conventional) into people on a regular basis if local foods are a little too expensive.
Tastewise, nothing beats food that is fresh and at it's peak. That's local food, slowly and sustainably grown. We love being able to eat raw corn that was picked that morning, and having bees swarm our peaches (that ripened on stem) because they are sugar sweet. Unfortunately, there isn't a system right now to make local organic food cheap enough for everyone.
Environmentally, the cost of transportation is up in the air - we're not sure if local or industrial costs us more greenwise - in fact, it may be a draw. Someone more scientific should write in and let us know. Long haul shipping might be more efficient, but we think that local organic farming methods (rotating several types of crops to let the land rest and limiting chemicals vs. specializing in one crop that exhausts the soil) is best for the environment. It's the same with livestock. It's a beautiful cycle when cows graze the land and poop (cows have poor digestive systems; so their manure has a lot of nutrients when they are on grass), and pigs follow the cows to root around in their manure looking for bits (conveniently breaking the poop down for chickens), then having the chickens peck around and break the poop down even more so it's ultimately easily biodegradable. Maybe it's the romantic in us, but we believe that a sustainable cycle like that is best for the earth. It's more expensive, but we think it's worth an additional $15 a week.
Bottom line: buy local and organic if you can. You'll get the best tasting food, support the local economy and have green cred. If you can't, buy the cheapest whole foods you can. You'll still be doing the best thing for your health!
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What I ate: latte + 2% NYMilk,, peaches, macadamia nuts, Whole Foods whole yogurt + flaxseeds + strawberries, whole wheat spaghetti + Rao's sauce, heirloom tomatoes + basil + pasta, parmesan cheese, 4 squares dark chocolate, coffee, raspberry tea, steamed corn, 3 bites rabbit pot pie, walnuts & almonds, Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, 45 oz. water