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“These Blueberries Taste Like Butt.” 6 Reasons Why Being a Locavore isn't as "Fresh" as You Think.
My kid loves blueberries, but having the little buggers flown in from overseas is expensive, as we live in South East Asia. But, since kids are cute (nobody told me beforehand) I end up splurging every now and then on a treat. But only every now and then. So imagine my daughter's delight when we saw a locally grown pint of blueberries from a fledgling farm near here. I was surprised when the price wasn't much cheaper than the 6 dollars or so we usually pay, and even more shocked when she ate a few, scrunched up her lips, and said, "these blueberries taste like butt."
Turns out, Cambodia's tropical climate isn't suited to growing plump and delicious berries. Turns out, depending on local sourcing isn't the economic, environmental and health panacea it is often reported as. Here's what we didn't know (at least my disappointed daughter and I) about eating locally.
1. Eating Locally Could Lead to an Unhealthier Diet
Wait, what? Isn't eating from the farmer's market supposed to make me as healthy and fit as shirtless wet dream machine Channing Tatum? Not necessarily. Obesity is already a serious problem and likely to get worse, not better as most assume, as we demand more things be locally sourced. Mmmmm, high fructose corn syrup. A key ingredient in such healthy foods as Shake n Bake Tangy Honey Glaze, Nabisco Oreo Cookie Crumbs, Kellogg's Spider-mania Spidey-Berry Cereal, and Robitussin PE Nasal Decongestant and Expectorant.
But the farmer's market, with its adorable stalls and the veggies straight from the dirt is so much healthier than the big box grocery store, with all its flash-frozen, preservative-stuffed, pre-packaged, and other hyphenated-things, right? Probably not. Next time you are at your locally sourced farmer's market, take a closer look at many of the goodies being sold. The number of sweets will surprise you. Bought all this at the farmer's market today for a hundred and sixty seven dollars. Even the cow the leather was made from was locally sourced!
"Motherhood and apple pie" by Scott Bauer, USDA ARS, Wikimedia Commons, obtained from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_pie
Okay, so maybe everything locally sourced isn't great for my waistline or my insulin levels, and moving towards locavorism may actually increase those problems. But whatever caloric risks there are are surely offset buy the pure, uncontaminated freshness and safety of these foods, right? Well, Slim....
2. Just Because Your Food is Locally Sourced Doesn't Mean Won't Make You Sick
The closer your food is produced to where its eaten, the less time for spoilage and contamination, right? Not necessarily. It may be that centralization and standardization can be safer and healthier.
In 2013, researchers at Penn State purchased 200 chickens, half from local growers and half from supermarkets, and tested them for salmonella and another harmful but awesomely named bacteria called campylobacter. Little known fact: "Campylobacter" was the b-side to the B-52's hit "Love Shack." The results were not what you'd expect, and pretty scary. I've made them really cute here, so as not to frighten you. Hey man, that chick is checking you out.
But those big corporate mega-farms, they don't care about our health and safety! The only people we can trust with our produce are little Ol' Granny Smith, Farmer John, Uncle Elmer and Cousin Luke, right? Eh, not so much.
3.Eating Locally Doesn’t Decrease Carbon Emissions
The less distance food travels in trucks that belch toxic smoke like a fratboy after a kegstand with a bongload supercharge, the better, right? Sure, but it turns out that doesn't make much difference. Upon a closer look, the concept of "food miles," the distance produce travels before the sale point, isn't very helpful. Why? Counter to what you might think, transportation is a minor polluting factor in agricultural production
Consider that supermarket stalwart: green beans from Kenya. These are air-freighted to stores to allow consumers to buy fresh beans when British varieties are out of season. Each packet has a little sticker with the image of a plane on it to indicate that carbon dioxide from aviation fuel was emitted in bringing them tο this country.
Isn't warning consumers about the carbon emissions caused by importing their magical toot fruits a good thing? CO2 is causing the greenhouse effect, for goodness sakes! Not necessarily. Air freight and other transportations are a small fraction of the total carbon emissions.
4. Locally Sourced Food Doesn’t Always Make Economic Sense
Local sourcing is a "micro" movement. But it doesn't make sense on the "macro" scale on which the American food production economy is built. Changing what is seen as an inefficient and destructive system of agri-business is one of the goals of the locavore movement, but the increased costs for the extra cropland, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, farm machinery, and infrastructure are enormous. This runs counter to what we believe about local food. "It might cost a little more now, but we'll save in the long run," the thinking goes, but as we forsake the efficiency of a larger scale, we lose the long term benefits to the drastically decreased resources and dramatically increased production expenses.
5. Locally Sourced Food Isn’t Accessible to America's Poor and Rural People
Advocates of local sourcing are always preaching about hour your diet should reflect seasonal availability of foods, specialties of your area, and in order to be more in harmony with nature’s bounty.
I spent one winter on Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest places in America and smack dab in the middle of what is known as "a food desert." So far away from everywhere else and so minimal were the local options that a single apple cost approximately eighty seven dollars, although my memory might be fuzzy. The freshest thing available was beef jerky and Gatorade of a recent vintage. Areas like this are known as "food deserts" and they much more widespread than you'd think. Most Americans (especially the young, educated, affluent Cracked readership) live in large urban centers where access to healthy, fresh foods is possible, if not always easy. But a large portion of the country does not.