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Sep 8, 2007 07:41 AM

Local Eating Facts? (moved from Ontario)

Has anyone read Margaret Wente's piece in today's G&M about growing local food and our 'carbon footprints'? If this is a topic that interests you, it's an entertaining piece that certainly speaks to some of the 'fashionableness' of local eating, versus the practicality of it.

Heirloom tomatoes that look like the Elephant Man... mmm mmm good... :)

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  1. Thanks for the tip. For those looking for the article online, here's a link:

    1 Reply
    1. re: xtal

      On this same topic we in Minnesota have experienced damaging rains this past month as have other midwestern states. The following commentary appeared regarding the problems in revealed under the title of The Consequences of Organic farming.
      It is an intersting addition to the discussion. For myself I just returned from my local farmers market with loads of local heirloom end of summer foods. My kitchen looks delightful. And two evenings ago ate at one of our outstanding creative resturaunts dedicated to local food Heartland.
      To me the aesthetics of the foods and the artisans that produce them are reason enough. Everything need not be political. Indeed, politicizing distracts rather than enhances the core of the experience often as not.

    2. Margaret Wente's never met a good idea that she can't disagree with or been unable to find a questionable scientific study to "prove" the opposite point.

      1. while i'm not familiar with this woman's work in general, she probably has a point. nytimes ran an article about the same study recently; that lamb from new zealand is more efficient than the home grown version, because our farmers feed with grain. i don't know what the comparison would be for home grown grass fed animals though.

        i think it just boils down to this; these issues of what's really best for the environment are much more complex than a first consideration of them would assume. organic and local sound so good that instinctively i think a lot of people just want them to be the best choice. when you consider the entire picture including land usage, carbon footprint, etc etc, it becomes more and more complicated.

        i imagine that some hybrid of organic and non-organic techniques might actually win out in terms of environmental concerns and productivity.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nzach

          "i think it just boils down to this; these issues of what's really best for the environment are much more complex than a first consideration of them would assume. organic and local sound so good that instinctively i think a lot of people just want them to be the best choice. when you consider the entire picture including land usage, carbon footprint, etc etc, it becomes more and more complicated."

          So true........ and exactly my point.

        2. Many of you seem to be missing the point about eating locally grown and locally produced foods. There are many answers to the question, "Why local?"

          As hoagy294 mentioned, "studies" exist to back up just about anything, but there will never be a study that finds that apples imported from New Zealand create fewer carbon dioxide emissions than apples grown here in Ontario. Or that "organic" garlic imported from China leaves less of a carbon footprint than locally grown garlic. We're not even discussing flavour here -- Chinese garlic has absolutely no flavour, whereas locally grown garlic -- wow! Check out the garlic festival taking place in Stratford next Saturday and report back here afterwards.

          Other very important reasons for eating locally grown and produced foods include the following:

          When you buy from local farmers, producers and food artisans, your consumer dollar stays in your communities, where it belongs. The farmers in our region benefit and are less likely to face bankruptcy if you buy their products which, unfortunately for them, are often priced higher than the imports. But pay the extra money, allow our farmers to thrive, demand local produce in your supermarkets, and those prices will come down. And nobody seems to realize that, when you buy local, your government's coffers benefit too -- which could lead to lowered taxes for all of us in the long run;

          Local produce is more likely to have been harvested more recently and at a riper stage than imported produce, which is picked well before its time (and grown for optimal shelf life, not for optimal flavour). The fresher the products, the more nutrients they are likely to pack. And kawarthagirl, give me an Elephant Man-shaped tomato any time. Flavour trumps looks in my book!

          One of the major reasons for purchasing locally grown, raised and produced foods (including poultry and meats) is that it is highly reassuring to know where your food comes from. Putting a face and a name on the farm or farmer or food artisan who has grown and produced the foods you eat -- connecting you with these people -- is extremely empowering, especially in this day and age of disturbing (and deadly) food safety concerns. How much melamine are we humans consuming without realizing it? Our dogs and cats are protected now -- what about us?

          Another issue that is under-reported is that, the more we rely on food imports, the fewer local farmers and food producers stay in business. In the event of a world crisis whereby we are cut off from those food imports we rely on so heavily -- a scary, but not so far-fetched scenario -- if we haven't supported our local foodshed and our local food supply, we will starve to death because we will not have the local goods to feed our communities.

          It's not quite as simple as kawarthagirl makes it out to be. Eating local is not about being "fashionable" -- it IS about being practical and rational.

          And it's not about being trendy, either; it's about being mindful of our own future and that of our communities.

          4 Replies
          1. re: edibleTO

            I totally agree, I recently did a large project on local food and the benefit to society.

            Aboout the point saying new zealand lamb is more efficient- well great, but then is it more efficient when you take into the consideration the amount of emission and pollution caused shipping the lamb here. Then think of the costs to get through customs or regulations or whatever government officials have to look at the animals, transportation again to maybe a food warehouse, and then potentially a store, and then finally it gets to your home.

            Purchasing ontario lamb gets killed at a local farm, goes to slaughter house, get picked up by a distributor, and then delivered to the butcher shop. In some cases the farmer and the butcher are the same people- or family. All the while the local economy is being supported.

            Also in terms of pollution- the more plants and veggies we grow here, the cleaner our air gets since leaves recycle CO2.

            1. re: cupcakez

              yes, that was the whole point of the study. it was still about one quarter the carbon emissions to purchase lamb in england that was from new zealand, INCLUDING transportation, than to buy the local product. this being primarily because of the energy used to grow the grain fed the animal.

              1. re: nzach

                At the risk of setting myself up as an 'environmental chauvinist" - as always there are several views. I do buy local veggies, but am not convinced that local meat has an equivalent 'taste' to SOME of the travelled meats. I'd like to point out that many (most?) restaurants serve Australian Lamb. Why? - Because the taste is preferred by their clients and/or the price is favourable (my opinion is the taste). Incidentally I FAR prefer Washington State Lamb - it's usually a different breed of lamb (that originated in the Spanish Pyrenees) rather than the Ontario breeds.
                And New Zealand Venison is (to my taste) preferable to Ontario - but here it's a question of aging. The New Zealand version is shipped by sea in refrigerated containers (huge carbon footprint I know) so by the time it reaches the market here it's been aged for 28 days - I haven't found anyone here aging their venison as long (same basic process with the Australian lamb - longer aged).
                Then, of course, there's cheese and all milk-derived products. Let's just leave it at the regulations actively discourage 'quality' in favour of homogeneity.
                Efficiency vs taste - I wouldn't put my money where my mouth is - unless the taste is there!

                1. re: estufarian

                  Im definitly not going to disagree with any of that. To each his own.
                  I will only eat Cumbraes lamb (at the moment, if I found other higher end lamb in the city, or at a higher end restaurant I might try it). Im not a big fan or new zealand or australian lamb, and was appalled when I tried grocery store lamb from toronto. I cant say I know of anyone who ages lamb for that long either.

                  The dairy industry in ontario has a huge amount of power...and I wont even get started on regulations and what not. Lets just say Im nodding in agreement with you, but am still of course a huge dairy devotee.

                  I will stand firm on my belief of buying local produce. Its just a shame that some Toronto grocery stores dont even carry local produce during the summer. I went to no frills a few days ago and they only had imported peaches. Of course I would hold off on buying those and go to another store in my travels to find the amazing and in season niagara peaches. urg, i hate those imported peaches and nectarines. why even bother with the hard, tasteless, and tiny things?

          2. Hi,

            For all of you in Canada who are interested in eating local, my wife and I just started a website that allows you to search for local food producers near you. It's a community website to which we're encouraging everyone to add their favourite local and/or organic markets, farms, stores and restaurants.