2

votes

Is "local" really better?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created July 16, 2012 at 1:55 AM

I went to Whole Foods recently and they did not have a lot of organic produce, but they did have a lot of "locally grown" produce, and large signs everywhere promoting this new trend.

Now for me, local can mean New Jersey...Is this really a good thing? :-)

In all seriousness, if local can be local with pesticides and hormones etc, then why is this any better than non-organic foods that are not local, cheaper in my own local grocery store with the same problems?

Da681d976130df15aac3984013aaad6d

(720)

on July 17, 2012
at 05:44 PM

yeah I did ask them if they sprayed their crops with "conventional" pesticides and they said they did, so, it's just highly sprayed conventional produce that happens to be grown nearby, that's it. they are small farms and need support but they practice pretty much the same as the big farms. it's too bad.

91f5be33a7ec9f59a5c528af3c75175d

on July 17, 2012
at 03:46 PM

Come on no worries we are all adults here and everyone has a bad day, I'm just trying to do what everyone else is trying to do live a good clean life. Life is to short for arguments. :) I'm glad your having agood day Karen

Dfe1dfb34939145fe21b3d8fa6832365

(657)

on July 17, 2012
at 01:46 PM

Currently living in Milton. Buy most of my food in Burlington.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 17, 2012
at 12:37 PM

@Neal You're welcome. Sorry about the attitude. I was kind of moody and irritable last night.

91f5be33a7ec9f59a5c528af3c75175d

on July 17, 2012
at 06:35 AM

thanks for that!

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 17, 2012
at 12:02 AM

Did you ask them or rely on signs? If you asked them, did you use the word organic? USDA organic regulations now require very expensive licensing to legally use the word, so most small farmers can't advertise or say "organic" to you. Ask them about their pest management practices, how they care for the soil etc.

2e3477a85563d4b7159814d5f4ea57d3

(435)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:46 PM

Where in VT? I just moved to Jericho

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:26 PM

"read labels to see if corporate types get it" AHAHAHAHA You mean the ones that say "All NATURAL!!" or ORGANIC in bright eco color schemes dreamed up in the marketing department? The labels that fail to mention that ALL NATURAL means nothing, and that ORGANIC has been stretched so that corporations can fulfill the letter of the law, while stomping on the spirit? The labels on economically sensible "all natural, organic" products made in China with rather questionable labor practices? Those labels?

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:19 PM

You're really, really wrong. So very wrong.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:19 PM

You're wrong. The small scale local producers often can not legally claim their produce as organic because they can not afford the very high licensing fees. When shopping for local food through farmers markets, CSAs or at the farm, you can find out from the grower their practices. Don't ask if they are organic, ask what they do to prevent insect and disease problems, ask how they treat the soil, ask in general what practices they use. Often you can even go to the farm and see. Just try that with a big corporate farm.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on July 16, 2012
at 10:48 PM

My guess is if it's sold in the US, it must adhere to US standards. I think a lot of US companies have locations in Mexico to be able to provide produce at earlier times. I'm dubious too, but mostly for transportation reasons. I try to wait on most things until they're available locally.

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on July 16, 2012
at 06:02 PM

They *should be* saving the world given their obscene prices. Conscious corporate practices mean very little to me when they gouge their customers so deeply and make "healthy eating" an infeasible practice for most: compartmentalizing us and at the same time, the general public's view of nutrition - not to mention setting the precedent that it is okay to mark food up to such a ridiculous degree just on that pretense of health. Grain-fed meat at my farmers market is $10.99/lb; and at my butcher? $2.99/lb. I'm tired of that high class health food scene, it isn't a productive approach.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on July 16, 2012
at 03:57 PM

Part of Whole Foods offering local produce is to be a good corporate citizen and support the local economy. The carbon footprint thing, too.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:12 AM

Best place for local food is not WF. Head to a farmers market. Ask the grower in person what they used on their crops.

A39237551dac75eb36335098b0f5fa61

(525)

on July 16, 2012
at 08:57 AM

In a fairly recent episode of Freakonomics podcast they talked to an economist who did a study of carbon footprint of local vs. non-local food. After extensive tracking they figured out that transportation only accounts for 7% of carbon emissions in food production. Intuitively it doesn't make sense, but life is like that sometimes :)

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on July 16, 2012
at 05:00 AM

Interesting thought. You hear a lot about transport costs, carbon footprint, etc. regarding non-local food (in fact I think that's the number one argument in the localvore's arsenal), but you don't hear much about the extra energy required to produce a food outside of its natural environment. I suppose one could argue we should only eat food *capable of* natural local production, but that is a life changing prophecy for those of us between 40 - 50 latitude. I'm not too fond of the thought of life without avocados.

Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

12 Answers

6
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on July 16, 2012
at 02:51 AM

Most local food (at least in the areas where I've lived) will be grown without pesticides, using organic methods (compost, etc.), but not certified organic, simply due to the cost involved.

The conventional farmers who use a lot of fertilizer/pesticides are (generally speaking) going to sell to wholesalers, not direct to a retailer or consumer.

You need to ask more questions with local producers. If you go to a Farmer's Market, you can ask them directly! I would hope that the manager of the produce dept at your Whole Foods will know more about the growing methods of each local producer.

5
3a9d5dde5212ccd34b860bb6ed07bbef

on July 16, 2012
at 02:03 AM

carbon footprint vs. clean food.

4
Dfe1dfb34939145fe21b3d8fa6832365

on July 16, 2012
at 11:57 AM

The quality of local food here in VT is so amazing, that I really won't buy anything else unless I simply can't afford it.

The CSA vegetables my family receives are so vibrant, strong. Their qualities that make them unique plants are all very pronounced. The meat is very flavorful and nutrient dense.

Another quality that may not have been mentioned, and maybe it's just me, but local food tastes like where you live. I can taste my environment in the local foods I eat, and that establishes and awesome connection with my habitat.

Eating food from your location + walking barefoot on the land you live on = a strong connection with your environment.

Just my experience.

2e3477a85563d4b7159814d5f4ea57d3

(435)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:46 PM

Where in VT? I just moved to Jericho

Dfe1dfb34939145fe21b3d8fa6832365

(657)

on July 17, 2012
at 01:46 PM

Currently living in Milton. Buy most of my food in Burlington.

2
A39237551dac75eb36335098b0f5fa61

(525)

on July 16, 2012
at 04:50 AM

Depends on what you mean with better. Other commenters gave good reasons for local being healthier, such as it being seasonal and perhaps produced with fewer pesticides. But we have to also remember that food quality is highly dependend on soil quality. And some parts of the world are just more suitable for growing certain types of foods. So local doesn't automatically mean better soil quality.

And then there's the environmental question. Locally produced food usually creates more carbon dioxide emissions than 'mass produced' food. For example tomatoes produced in a warm climate will be more environmentally friendly than tomatoes produced in a colder climate. Warm climates require less energy inputs into growing the tomatoes. And transportation accounts only about 7% of carbon emissions for food.

This is a long winded way to say it depends.

A39237551dac75eb36335098b0f5fa61

(525)

on July 16, 2012
at 08:57 AM

In a fairly recent episode of Freakonomics podcast they talked to an economist who did a study of carbon footprint of local vs. non-local food. After extensive tracking they figured out that transportation only accounts for 7% of carbon emissions in food production. Intuitively it doesn't make sense, but life is like that sometimes :)

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on July 16, 2012
at 05:00 AM

Interesting thought. You hear a lot about transport costs, carbon footprint, etc. regarding non-local food (in fact I think that's the number one argument in the localvore's arsenal), but you don't hear much about the extra energy required to produce a food outside of its natural environment. I suppose one could argue we should only eat food *capable of* natural local production, but that is a life changing prophecy for those of us between 40 - 50 latitude. I'm not too fond of the thought of life without avocados.

2
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on July 16, 2012
at 04:29 AM

Local food is better because it is probably fresher and required fewer machines to get to you. Also, local food is by definition seasonal, and i think our bodies evolved eating seasonal foods.

That said, local does not necessarily mean organic or wholesome or well raised or well prepared, so i night pick top quality salmon from across the country over local foods. But i am generally disappointed with the quality of the foods that are typically available.

1
5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:10 PM

It's certainly better for the local economy. To me, keeping local economies healthy rather than corporate stockholders bank accounts is a paleo lifestyle issue.

If you buy direct from the farmer at a farmers market, through a CSA or on the farm, you can talk to them about, and often see, their production practices. Many are effectively organic although not licensed that way because of the high cost.

1
Da681d976130df15aac3984013aaad6d

on July 16, 2012
at 10:39 PM

My farmer's market has all local produce but NONE of it is organic (or less sprayed, etc). I don't buy any of it and wind up buying organic stuff shipped in from across the country, which seems ludicrous, but if I have to make a choice I care more about not eating pesticides than lowering my carbon footprint. There are a few local rooftop farms that I try to support that I know don't use pesticides so that's nice. I am, however, weirded out by "organic" stuff that comes from Mexico and other places out of the country because I don't know what the standards are there.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 17, 2012
at 12:02 AM

Did you ask them or rely on signs? If you asked them, did you use the word organic? USDA organic regulations now require very expensive licensing to legally use the word, so most small farmers can't advertise or say "organic" to you. Ask them about their pest management practices, how they care for the soil etc.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on July 16, 2012
at 10:48 PM

My guess is if it's sold in the US, it must adhere to US standards. I think a lot of US companies have locations in Mexico to be able to provide produce at earlier times. I'm dubious too, but mostly for transportation reasons. I try to wait on most things until they're available locally.

Da681d976130df15aac3984013aaad6d

(720)

on July 17, 2012
at 05:44 PM

yeah I did ask them if they sprayed their crops with "conventional" pesticides and they said they did, so, it's just highly sprayed conventional produce that happens to be grown nearby, that's it. they are small farms and need support but they practice pretty much the same as the big farms. it's too bad.

1
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on July 16, 2012
at 01:19 PM

Local, organic, carbon-footprint... worthless buzzwords that really don't tell you crap about how good your food is for you. Locavorism is neat and all, but it's not the pinnacle of eating/farming.

1
A4216f1b1e1f5ab3815bd91700905081

on July 16, 2012
at 04:38 AM

For me "local" generally means "less time in transit".

Local heirloom tomatoes are far more flavorful than mass produced "tomatoes". I look for locally sourced components whenever I can, because they tend to have better flavor profiles.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 16, 2012
at 10:54 PM

Fresher and cheaper usually. Yesterday I bought farmer's market rhubarb for 99 cents a pound, a third what the grocery charges. The huckleberries I picked for free a week ago are so local you can't get them anywhere else, at any price. I eat what grows locally as often as I can.

0
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on July 16, 2012
at 05:42 PM

Local isn't necessarily better. In terms of resources used, those advocating consuming local stuff tend to overestimate transportation as a factor and underestimate all other costs. In some cases, your local producer can actually be burning more fuel (and resources in general) to get you your product than the evil global corporation does.

Local also doesn't work as a proxy for food quality. You have to talk to the locals to see if they get it. Of course, you also have to read labels to see if corporate types get it, so in terms of time invested, you are likely to be better off finding a local supplier- assuming he's on your wavelength.

What local actually helps for is having some clue where to go when the supply disruptions start.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:26 PM

"read labels to see if corporate types get it" AHAHAHAHA You mean the ones that say "All NATURAL!!" or ORGANIC in bright eco color schemes dreamed up in the marketing department? The labels that fail to mention that ALL NATURAL means nothing, and that ORGANIC has been stretched so that corporations can fulfill the letter of the law, while stomping on the spirit? The labels on economically sensible "all natural, organic" products made in China with rather questionable labor practices? Those labels?

0
91f5be33a7ec9f59a5c528af3c75175d

on July 16, 2012
at 08:33 AM

I thought local foods would just be to help your local community/ business unless they state they produce clean, non pesticide/ carbon footprint reducing foods they probably are plowing it full of rubbish, please correct me if I'm wrong.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:19 PM

You're really, really wrong. So very wrong.

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 17, 2012
at 12:37 PM

@Neal You're welcome. Sorry about the attitude. I was kind of moody and irritable last night.

91f5be33a7ec9f59a5c528af3c75175d

on July 17, 2012
at 03:46 PM

Come on no worries we are all adults here and everyone has a bad day, I'm just trying to do what everyone else is trying to do live a good clean life. Life is to short for arguments. :) I'm glad your having agood day Karen

5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on July 16, 2012
at 11:19 PM

You're wrong. The small scale local producers often can not legally claim their produce as organic because they can not afford the very high licensing fees. When shopping for local food through farmers markets, CSAs or at the farm, you can find out from the grower their practices. Don't ask if they are organic, ask what they do to prevent insect and disease problems, ask how they treat the soil, ask in general what practices they use. Often you can even go to the farm and see. Just try that with a big corporate farm.

91f5be33a7ec9f59a5c528af3c75175d

on July 17, 2012
at 06:35 AM

thanks for that!

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!