6.12.2008

question about eating locally

Many of us, myself included, are trying to buy and eat more locally grown and produced food. I'm not attaching myself to any set plan, such as the now-popular 100 Mile Diet, as that strikes me as yet another "how to eat" book, albeit one with a social conscience. But it is something I'm trying to work more into my life, and I'm looking for ways to expand on the theme.

But some things don't make sense to me. If you are really sticking to an all-local diet, what do you do in the winter? Do you can and preserve fruits and vegetables during the warmer months, for winter consumption? That's something that most modern people are not going to do. In my own life, I can put that aside in the "not going to happen" category.

Do you not eat fruits and vegetables all winter? That wouldn't be a very healthful eating plan. Our ancestors might have "put up" fruits and vegetables, but they also didn't eat a balanced diet.

Even in the warmer months, there are foods we North Americans grew up eating that have never been local. I'm not thinking of foods once considered exotic that are now available in supermarkets everywhere. I'm thinking of foods we've always considered ordinary in my lifetime and my mother's, such as oranges.

In the northern latitudes, will you give up eating citrus fruit? Inland, will you not eat seafood? While I very much intend to eat more locally - and I've been trying, on a small scale - these are changes I would not make, as they would be so personally unhealthy.

One of my nieces is an organic/conscious-eating chef, and is learning about working in the farm-to-table movement. But she lives in California. It's easy to cook and eat locally there; in fact, that's a primary reason she close to live there. Living in Ontario, how could I possibly eat locally, and healthfully, in the winter?

If there's some basic tenet I'm missing, please forgive my ignorance, and educate me and other readers.

Allan and I are out today, so comments will sit in moderation for a while, but we'll get them through as soon as we can. Thanks in advance.

44 comments:

Nancy said...

Hi Laura,

Northern Europeans ate sauerkraut during winter, along with a lot of root vegetables. If you join a CSA, or farm cooperative, you will literally eat 'with the seasons' and learn a lot about what is available and when.

I like oranges, but they don't grow too well in Canada. If one is serious about 100 mile diets, olive oil also has to 'go'. Grapeseed oil is an effective substitute.

My kitchen will be set up by the end of the month and I would like to invite you and Allan for dinner after you are back from holiday. I plan to use only Canadian produce when I can.

L-girl said...

Thanks for the invite, Nancy. :)

If one is serious about 100 mile diets, olive oil also has to 'go'. Grapeseed oil is an effective substitute.

Well, I'm not serious about a 100-mile diet - I'm not even attempting it. There's no way I'd give up olive oil or organges or Pacific salmon or... a lot of things.

But I am interested in what different folks are doing about this. So we'll see.

Thanks to everyone in advance for the CSA recommendations. I forgot how they always come rolling in when I post about eating locally. I won't be joining, but I thank you anyway.

Canada Calling said...

Here on Vancouver Island we have abundant produce in summer and a lot of greenhouse produce in winter. We try to eat locally (meaning B.C., Okanogan, etc) when at all possible. There is a big push here via media and government to have residential gardens like the 'Victory Gardens' of the Depression era. We have cleared out some space in our yard and planted some things that locally will grow here, using BC heirloom seeds. In the winter, I'm not willing to give up citrus, etc. Personally, we will not eat anything grown in Mexico, even if there is not an alternative. We do without. Winter is a challenge when trying to eat locally. Our friends at 'Newly Canadian' have a fantastic greenhouse that serves them year round. I guess that would be the next option, for us. Not so much, in Ontario.

neutron said...

You'll have to excuse my ignorance everyone ... why try and eat locally? I have some pretty strong objections to this but maybe I'm just missing something here.

L-girl said...

Canada Calling, thanks for the info. Great stuff. Why do you boycott foods from Mexico? (I can think of several reasons, but I'm interested in what yours are.)

Neutron, I'm glad you asked that! I was assuming everyone knew about this and thought it was good, but that's a big assumption and obviously incorrect.

The short answer is for the environment. The 100 Mile Diet site has a lot of info, as does Michael Pollan. If you Google "eat locally", you'll find a lot of good things, too.

I am running out the door now, but hopefully people will answer your question more thoroughly while I'm gone.

And what are your objections? I have some, too. For example, I like to help the economy of Peru, and help support traditional, organic farming methods, by buying asparagus grown there. But it obviously takes a huge amount of energy to bring those asparagus to me.

Similarly, I buy organically grown lettuce from California. Good farming practices, better for health and in some ways better for the environment - yet also bad for the environment as it uses so much energy to get to me.

It's not as black-and-white as some people would have us believe.

I also asked about this here - organic vs. local, which is more important?

Sarah O. said...

I think eating sustainably for those of us not practicing sustenance farming or joining CSAs is about finding a balance between our imported, can't-live-without, small-volume and splurge items (coffee, spices, oil, fresh citrus fruit), and where the bulk of our calories come from (traditionally carb-filled foods like grains, potatoes, and rice, and the 'heartier' veggies). (Tangentially, I think that's what is great about cooking shows featuring Canadian chefs like Michael Smith who focus on food "in season" - glamourizing root crops for those of us who see them as stew veggies - heck, even glamourizing stew)

Michael Pollan discussed this briefly in Second Nature, and it stayed with me because it's not only about lowering transportation costs and fuel consumption, reducing the amount of food exported from countries with food shortages, and eating more locally, it also encourages crop diversity within a country/region, helps small farmers and the rural economy, is better for the environment, and strengthens the national food supply.

Jen said...

*On the perils of eating locally in winter:

http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/dtwof-episode-516#more-514

*On the dilemma of organic vs fair trade:

http://dykestowatchoutfor.com/dtwof-episode-522

Kim_in_TO said...

I like the idea in theory, but there are some things I am not willing to give up. I've long struggled with the problem of eating better; as a single guy, I've gone through my junk food years - with practically no fruit or vegetables. On my most recent trip to Cuba, I returned, inspired after being served so much fresh fruit. I started to incorporate more fruit into my diet such as pineapple, which I love and which I quickly found out is easy to prepare. Ironically, at a time when the "eating locally" phenomenon is taking off, I went the other way, resolving to start learning about and trying more exotic fruit, partly because that's the kind of experience that is available to us in this culture. And in order to keep eating properly, I think variety is one of the keys. I'm thankful we're not limited to eating the same few foods all the time.

I do think eating locally is a great idea, and I do intend to practise it wherever possible. For instance, when I have a choice between apples from Ontario and apples from the US, I'd even pay more for local. (Just don't ask me to give up my pineapple.) If we all do at least this, it can make a difference.

Ferdzy said...

Well, as you know, I dedicate an entire blog to eating locally and seasonally in Ontario. I don't stick with the "100 mile diet" as such, I stick to Ontario produced food. I've been eating locally for 30 years, long before it became trendy. I aim to eat about 80% local food, and yes, that's averaged over the whole year. Sure, I eat differently throughout the seasons. Here's an (incomplete) list of what should be available throughout the year in terms of produce: Ont Produce by Month

If you want to get an idea of what I eat during the winter, go to my blog, and click on one or two of the winter months listed on the sidebar. Don't forget to check under the recipes listed for "all year".

I do freeze a lot of fruit. Veggies, not so much. I buy some frozen veg in in the winter that say "product of Canada". Don't know exactly what that means, but I live in hope. (I have more research to do!)

We enjoy canning; it's kind of a hobby for us. But I can certainly understand why most people wouldn't want to do it. It's helpful to do it, but not necessary.

To me, the environmental impact of transporting food long distances is only one of the issues related to eating. I talk about it here, if yo want to read more: Blog Action Day There's a certain amount of argument as to whether it actually uses more energy to grow produce in greenhouses or to transport it from the south. To me, that's not a big point: even if it uses more energy, there are still the economic, labour and accountability issues to be considered that make the locally grown greenhouse stuff more desirable to me.

I will actually buy Mexican produce over American produce. It's part of my hierarchy of boycotts, lol.

Just a note - winter is not the hardest time of the year to eat locally in Ontario. There are lots of stored veggies, and hearty meals are desirably. It's the spring that's really tough. Everybody's ready to eat lighter, greener meals, but the veggies just arent' there yet. That's the time of year I indulge myself with more imported fruit in particular - although I also often find myself cleaning out all the frozen fruit in the freezer.

Ferdzy said...

Oh yeah; American but a very good site: check out the Ethicurean

Neutron, this site should help answer some of your questions.

Kuri said...

I love canning, actually and try to preserve a lot of fruit and veggies. The more acidic items are quite easy for anyone to do over a weekend. I'm not a strick "100-mile" type, but I think it's good to buy in season when possible and canning is not a very difficult task. In fact, once you realize how many interesting pickle, jam and preserve recipes there are, it's a pretty fun part of cooking.

However, if you're really dead set against doing any home canning, a lot of farmers' markets will still offer home-canned, locally grown pickles, jams, fruit, etc.

L-girl said...

Thanks everyone!

Jen, thanks for the links, one can never have too much Dykes To Watch Out For in one's life!

Ferdzy, thanks so much for the blog and additional info. I'll make use of it and hopefully some wmtc will, too.

I guess on the continuum, I am closest to Sarah O and Kim_from_TO. I choose local over non-local whenever possible (Ontario apples vs. USA apples), but I don't refrain from eating apples when Ontario apples are out of season.

Similar to Kim, eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables has become a very positive part of my regular eating. Whenever possible, I choose organically grown - and when possible, I choose local. But when neither is possible, I buy it and eat it anyway.

I still don't understand how I could eat a healthy diet without that. Help?!

Canning and preserving are 100% out of the question for me. I'm glad to know people still use and enjoy it but I will never do it. Not a viable option.

And sadly, neither is doing all or most of my food shopping in farmer's markets. I can explain further if anyone asks.

I'm still interested in why Canada Calling boycotts Mexican-grown products. Don't know if she'll come back to explain.

Ferdzy, what do you mean by "stored veggies", regarding eating well and locally in winter? How would one eat salads? Or would you just not eat salad?

FatLady said...

This is something I've been trying to adopt as well--but on a case-by- case basis. I generally try to buy more local produce and plan the menus around what is available: I look for Ontario products first, BC next, USA after that. What I really miss, having been raised in Western NY, are the roadside stands. Buying local produce from a family farmer is my strong preference. The Farmer's Market here is Mississauga is a pale substitute when much of what is sold is not local at all but the same stuff as is available in the grocery stores.

But you are absolutely right, we just aren't willing to give up citrus (I can't cook without fresh lemons) or certain other things--like bananas. And I know melons don't grow in Ontario but during the summer--I want them. I do not, however, buy melons in December.

When I was a kid, my parents were strong believers in gardening. It meant a savings on groceries at a time when it was a challenge to make the mortgage payment. As a bonus, the food was better and all that work kept their kids from running the neighborhood!

We also canned and froze much of the harvest. It is, make no mistake , an enormous amount of work. I also wonder about the wisdom of running a large freezer, even now with "energy-star" appliances.

For people with families, I can see the value if you have the time. For the two of us, I don't see the point. (Except fresh local plum tomatoes which I oven-roast and stuff in the freezer!

L-girl said...

Although people with kids have even less time to do such things as put up fruit.

What I really miss, having been raised in Western NY, are the roadside stands. Buying local produce from a family farmer is my strong preference.

Me too! We always did that growing up, and the whole time I lived in NYC, anytime we were upstate, I looked for the stands.

But you are absolutely right, we just aren't willing to give up citrus (I can't cook without fresh lemons) or certain other things--like bananas.

Bananas, I didn't even think about that. I eat them year-round, always organically grown (that's a labour issue, too - much healthier for the farm workers), but I'm not about to stop getting my potassium from fruit.

Melons in summer - but never in winter. I agree. :)

Thanks for your thoughts, FL.

Ferdzy said...

For winter salads I use hydroponic (greenhouse) lettuce. Yes, it's more expensive and over-packaged. But it is Ontario-grown. There are also (bean, alfalfa, radish & onion) sprouts, mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers available greenhouse grown. There's cabbage; green, red and savoy. There's apples, which I often enjoy in a salad, and pears in the early winter. There's sauerkraut; good mixed with other ingredients. There's carrots, rutabagas, onions, celeriac and beets; not yer classic salad veggies necessarily but they do go into a number of salads.

In short, I eat lots of salads in the winter. They don't necessarily look exactly like summer salads, but they are still good salads. I also eats lots of stews and soups that contain many root veggies. Cabbage is a staple. I'm pretty darn tired of it by the time May rolls around, but that just makes the first spinach and asparagus that much tastier.

Sure there's debate that using a freezer saves that much energy over buying imported stuff. But as I keep saying it's not JUST about the energy for me. It's a factor, but not the only one. However, my impression from our energy bills is that they are just not that big a deal, energy-wise. And I don't even have a chest freezer, I have one of the less efficient front opening ones.

Just as a note, Ontario apples are only out of season for about 2 months of the year. Since those are the months that all the berries, cherries, peaches and apricots are in season, I wouldn't be eating apples even if Ontario ones were available in those months! In fact, I pretty much ignore even Ontario apples for the first 2 months they are available, because I am still busy gorging on peaches and plums. And pears too; they don't store nearly as well as apples so you have to get them before New Year pretty much.

L-girl said...

Ferdzy, excellent info, thank you SO much!

This shows me I can increase the local buying/eating that I'm doing. I will never be as "complete" about it as you, but I can go further than I have done, by varying our eating routines more than we do now.

It's definitely not only about the energy use. Sustaining Ontario farmland is another important issue - among others.

It's awful how the big supermarkets here only stock local produce at certain times and in very limited quantities. I would never think Ontario apples were so available so many months - I only see them 2 or 3 months a year.

Ferdzy said...

l-girl, I know your work schedule makes getting to farmers markets very difficult. However, there is the Square One farmers market that operates on Friday mornings during the summer. That's pretty close to you, isn't it? If you are free Friday mornings you might want to check it out.

L-girl said...

Ferdzy, I live right near Square One, 5 mins away. To my knowledge the farmer's market there is only while I am working.

For a while while I was unemployed last year, I went on Saturday mornings (so I could get the car back for Allan to go to work).

I was disappointed to find that most of the produce was not local. In fact, most was from the US! The quality and prices were very nice, but local - no.

Vendors there told me that later in the summer, there is more Ontario-grown produce, but most is US-grown.

Ferdzy said...

Ugh. Disappointing about the amount of imported produce at the "farmers" market. An awful lot of people still unclear on the concept... or just don't care.

I thought maybe you didn't work Fridays, but oh well.

MSS said...

I will admit that it is a lot easier to eat locally when one is a Californian (and when one has 8 acres with lots of fruit trees--can't get more local than that!). But for those who are in colder climates, it should not be too hard to find local growers who dry/can their own (summer) fruits for consumption out of season.

We actually do a fair amount of drying and canning. But I recognize that not everyone wants to do that.

I hear you on the oranges and olive oil. Available locally here, but not up in "eastern Canada" (sorry, could not resist). But you could make a point of buying oranges from the USA rather than Brazil. Sure, it violates the 100-mile rule, but one source less so than the other.

I, for one, will never give up my Hunza apricots, even if they are flown all the way (dried) from Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Thanks to whoever it was who mentioned the Ethicurean. Looks like a great site, even if one of the posts is about the shady ethics of eating bluefin--another thing I can't imagine giving up.

I do what I can. You do what you can, and thanks for keeping this issue on your front page, L-girl.

FatLady said...

L-girl,

That was my impression of the Square 1 Farmers Market as well. I don't even bother for the early part of the year, even though I'm even closer than you. I was a little annoyed by the idea that apparently all one needs to be a "farmer" is a rental truck and access to the produce wholesaler. I'd love to get to the organic farmer's market in Toronto but Thursday just never works out for me.

I'm waiting for the corn and the tomatoes!

L-girl said...

I thought maybe you didn't work Fridays, but oh well.

I work at home on Fridays, but I don't have the car. I could conceivably go on Friday mornings before Allan leaves for work. But as Fatlady knows, that market is not worth going out of one's way for! It's disappointing.

L-girl said...

I do what I can. You do what you can, and thanks for keeping this issue on your front page, L-girl.

Thank you, MSS. I'm very glad to have your input.

It's comforting for me to hear that even someone in southern California with his own orchard has some "must haves" like special apricots or bluefin tuna.

With non-local food, I do try to stay at least within the country, or at least within the continent.

Two exceptions - asparagus from Peru and clementines from Spain.

I still feel connected to the farmers we met in Peru - how hard they work, using all traditional methods, how they've invested in a new crop, specifically marketed to North Americans. They need me. :)

And those clementines! Those are our favourite fruit all year, two months of pure deliciousness from Spain, in the middle of our winter.

But in general, I do try to avoid the long distances. No more Granny Smiths from New Zealand. No plums from Chile.

Kim_in_TO said...

What I really miss, having been raised in Western NY, are the roadside stands. Buying local produce from a family farmer is my strong preference.

You shouldn't have to go far from Toronto to find these. My sister has a summer house only an hour from downtown, on Lake Simcoe, and we pass some on the way.

Nancy said...

The one year old farmer's market on Kerr Street in Oakville starts this Saturday, and I'm going. They advertise that all the produce comes from farms in a 100 mile radius. I hope that the big mushroom farm in Milton has a stand there!
I buy local produce in any country, when I can. Organic is better for you and for the farmer. And farmer's markets are fun; I learned more about how and where vegetables grow by hefting a three foot stand of Brussels sprouts, than by picking packaged products from a supermarket bin.

James said...

A recent analysis of farming costs vs. eating locally has shown that, for beef, and a lesser extent dairy, cutting one day a week of eating beef & dairy out of your diet provides a greater savings in carbon emissions than going to an all-local diet, because of the carbon investment in cattle farming (fuel, fertilizer, etc).

Dairy isn't as intensive as actual beef, largely because you get a lot of servings per cow compared to beef.

So if you can't manage an all-local diet, consider going beefless one or two days a week.

James said...

You may not have to worry about whether to eat bananas much longer -- Panama disease is back, and threatening the Cavendish banana that we eat in North America. Other types of banana are not hardy enough to survive transportation from the plantations. So we may stop seeing affordable bananas soon.

L-girl said...

A recent analysis of farming costs vs. eating locally has shown that, for beef, and a lesser extent dairy, cutting one day a week of eating beef & dairy out of your diet provides a greater savings in carbon emissions than going to an all-local diet, because of the carbon investment in cattle farming (fuel, fertilizer, etc).

The exception to that is eating local, grass-fed beef, which is actually better for the environment than any other type of farming. It's almost entirely solar powered and the cow dung is used as fertilizer.

So if you can't manage an all-local diet, consider going beefless one or two days a week.

When I see this, I always wonder, are there still people who eat beef every day? But of course there must be.

For all my talk about grass-fed steak, my concerns about factory farming, and not going back to being a vegetarian, I never eat beef more than once a week.

Of course, factory-farming issues apply to chicken and pork, too. And eating fish has its own environmental issues.

James said...

When I see this, I always wonder, are there still people who eat beef every day? But of course there must be.

Well, if you only eat beef twice a week, cutting down to once a week will produce the same net carbon savings as cutting from, say, five to four.

Of course, factory-farming issues apply to chicken and pork, too. And eating fish has its own environmental issues.

Pork is having some horrendous issues just with waste storage, let alone the rest of the issues. But compared to beef, pork is apparently less carbon-intensive, and chicken is far less.

L-girl said...

My issues with pork and chicken are about animal abuse/torture - tail-docking, beak-clipping, simulated constant daylight, etc.

Stuart Croall said...

While I haven't been keeping up with your blog very well lately, this is an interesting conversation. I was actually thinking about the issue of eating locally recently, particularly in the context of urban farming. I was amazed to discover that Wally's Market Garden in Saskatoon has vegetables available in late May. If you've ever been to Saskatoon in the Spring you would probably be surprised too.

The situation in Winnipeg for farmers' markets is a lot different by the sounds of things, because we simply don't have farmers' markets until local produce is available. There is a quite a few people here interested in the 100 mile diet concept, although I haven't had much of a chance to figure out how they pull it off.

Regarding the energy use of greenhouses, I've always been surprised that more effort hasn't been put into improving their energy efficiency. We are starting to have lots of homes and buildings heated by geothermal, why not greenhouses? There must be many other possibilities that would increase the feasibility of making local produce available for an extended period. To me, supporting the local economy make so much more sense.

Canada Calling said...

In Mexico, large agricultural operations are fertilized with raw sewage, which is bad because it lacks the process of decomposition, and can transmit many diseases, and it does. From what I understand, recycling human waste excrete can be practiced safely only by observing the strictest standards. I'm not convinced that Mexico does this. Maybe they do, I'm just skeptical. It's just a personal boycott :)

L-girl said...

Thanks Stuart and CC.

Stuart, my only experience was with one farmer's market in Mississauga. I have no idea if it's representative of farmer's markets in southern Ontario or even in the Greater Toronto Area. I wouldn't want to give the impression that farmer's markets here are not good, as I have zero information on that.

Canada Calling, thanks for explaining. From what you're saying, there would be huge outbreaks of e coli poisoning from Mexican produce sold in the US, and there hasn't been thus far. But on the other hand, strictly enforced regulations are not exactly common in Mexican society, which is riddled with bribery and corruption. So you very well could be right to not eat produce from that country.

Vancouver Isle Doug said...

Wow, that was a lot of reading! Having recently moved from the US midwest to Vancouver Island we are becoming more environmentally conscious and looking at ways we can rely more on our own backyard from a sustainability standpoint. Our first crop of tomatoes is doing great in the greenhouse and I've recently planted some green pepper, cucumber and apple seeds, just to see what will happen. We are fortunate that our house came with a greenhouse the size of a 2-car garage and I am now constantly online searching for news/tips/ideas of what I can grow. Bananas? Coffee? Egads, the mind boggles with possibilities/dreams!

I think the main thing here is that you are aware of the issues and, even if you take small steps one at a time, over time those small steps will add up to a journey. And those small steps, multiplied by thousands or millions of people, will have an impact.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

L-girl said...

I think the main thing here is that you are aware of the issues and, even if you take small steps one at a time, over time those small steps will add up to a journey. And those small steps, multiplied by thousands or millions of people, will have an impact.

V-I Doug, thanks so much for your thoughts. I think this is an excellent philosophy. Learning to get out of all-or-nothing thinking, allowing myself to make small positive chnages without committing to some huge, intimidating plan, was a huge challenge to me - one that continues to pay off in all areas of my life.

I love the thought of my small steps joining with yours, and everyone else's, to make serious change.

Good luck with your greenhouse!

James said...

The exception to that is eating local, grass-fed beef, which is actually better for the environment than any other type of farming. It's almost entirely solar powered and the cow dung is used as fertilizer.

Grass-fed beef is definitely better than standard farming beef, though its carbon-emission advantage isn't as high as one might think at first: one of the major contributors to the carbon footprint of cattle farming is bovine methane, which is actually higher for grass-fed than for feed-fed cattle.

It's all very convoluted...

L-girl said...

Grass-fed beef is definitely better than standard farming beef, though its carbon-emission advantage isn't as high as one might think at first: one of the major contributors to the carbon footprint of cattle farming is bovine methane, which is actually higher for grass-fed than for feed-fed cattle.

This is actually not true. The biggest carbon-emission factor in corn-fed beef is the enormous energy expended in growing industrial corn and shipping it to feed lots.

The methane is a tiny factor in comparison to this.

Michael Pollan has done carbon cost-benefit analyses of both factory-farmed, corn-fed beef and grass-fed beef, and the difference is enormously in favour of grass-fed beef. Once the true costs are revealed, there's nothing convoluted about it - it's very clear.

James said...

The biggest carbon-emission factor in corn-fed beef is the enormous energy expended in growing industrial corn and shipping it to feed lots.

I didn't mean to imply that methane was the largest contributor, nor that grass-fed cattle-farming wasn't an improvement over feed-fed; only that grass-fed's carbon footprint is larger than you'd think by just subtracting out the contributions from the stuff not used in grass-fed farming.

Here's the podcast that covered the "eat less beef" approach to reducing carbon emissions, itself based on this study in Environmental Science and Technology.

Here's a key bit from the summary:

Weber and colleague Scott Matthews, also of Carnegie Mellon, conducted a life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gases emitted during all stages of growing and transporting food consumed in the U.S. They found that transportation creates only 11% of the 8.1 metric tons (t) of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) that an average U.S. household generates annually as a result of food consumption. The agricultural and industrial practices that go into growing and harvesting food are responsible for most (83%) of its greenhouse gas emissions.

For perspective, food accounts for 13% of every U.S. household's 60 t share of total U.S. emissions; this includes industrial and other emissions outside the home. By comparison, driving a car that gets 25 miles per gallon of gasoline for 12,000 miles per year (the U.S. average) produces about 4.4 t of CO2. Switching to a totally local diet is equivalent to driving about 1000 miles less per year, Weber says.

A relatively small dietary shift can accomplish about the same greenhouse gas reduction as eating locally, Weber adds. Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year.

L-girl said...

didn't mean to imply that methane was the largest contributor, nor that grass-fed cattle-farming wasn't an improvement over feed-fed; only that grass-fed's carbon footprint is larger than you'd think by just subtracting out the contributions from the stuff not used in grass-fed farming.

Right. Thanks for the link and info.

I think Pollan's point is that the true environmental cost of factory-farming (which includes antiobiotics in the water supply, e coli, and lots of other disgusting stuff) are seldom fully tallied. So even with an increase in bovine methane from grass-fed beef, you're still way, way ahead of feed-lot beef.

Cutting down on beef consumption and going to locally produced, grass-fed beef when you do eat beef would seem like a good combo.

I was also glad to read about soy products and beans not necessarily being good environmentally. I eat both, but I'm glad to know it's not a simple "tofu is better for the environment than grass-fed beef" equation.

James said...

I think Pollan's point is that the true environmental cost of factory-farming (which includes antiobiotics in the water supply, e coli, and lots of other disgusting stuff) are seldom fully tallied. So even with an increase in bovine methane from grass-fed beef, you're still way, way ahead of feed-lot beef.

No argument there!

BTW, I'm reading Jessica Snyder Sacks's Good Germs, Bad Germs, which has a chapter dedicated to the problems created by using antibiotics as growth stimulants. A little dry at times, but a good book.

Cutting down on beef consumption and going to locally produced, grass-fed beef when you do eat beef would seem like a good combo.

Yup. Other complications are also coming to light: for example, food that's shipped across the ocean then transported by rail to your area can have less of a transportation-related carbon footprint than the same food driven by truck across your continent. It still doesn't beat truly local food, but African oranges (if there is such a thing) could have less transportation carbon associated with them than Californian ones, thanks to the higher fuel-per-tonne efficiency of ship and train transportation.

M@ said...

I have no idea if it's representative of farmer's markets in southern Ontario

One of the great things in Kitchener is its market. It's not what it used to be, apparently, but I love the fact that in summer I can buy vegetables that not only show what day they were harvested, but what time they were harvested. Knowing that the spinach was cut that very morning (at 5 am!) makes me feel pretty good about buying it. Maybe they're being dishonest about it -- but why? No, I prefer to take it at face value.

On the personal side, I myself put in a "victory garden" last year and expanded it this year. The cucumbers I grew last year were among the best I've ever eaten. And I've got 15 tomato plants this year, and about 60 onions, so I should have a decent crop of tomato sauce! Here's hopin'.

MSS said...

Just a quick follow up here...

I most certainly agree with supporting farmers in far away places like Peru as long as they (such as, evidently, the ones L-girl refers to) are "real" farmers and not just one end of a multinational food chain conglomerate.

On clementines from Spain or elsewhere, that refers to a large class of mandarins, and not even close to my favorite class of those wonderful fruits. Many great examples are grown in North America--in California and Florida. For whatever that might be worth.

Now, pardon me while I take a break to go pick some Murcott mandarins!

L-girl said...

M@, that is very cool. I hope I get to sample some of that sauce.

MSS, they are definitely real farmers, working in family-run cooperatives. They work the land by hand, because it's very fragile. And they grow on terraces originally farmed by their Inca ancestors!

On clementines from Spain or elsewhere, that refers to a large class of mandarins, and not even close to my favorite class of those wonderful fruits.

They're my favourite, by far. Nothing grown in CA or FL comes close, IMO.

Now, pardon me while I take a break to go pick some Murcott mandarins!

Murcotts! I'm glad someone can eat those. Yuck!

I wish my Clemmies grew closer to home. But I'd be so sad to give them up.

L-girl said...

in summer I can buy vegetables that not only show what day they were harvested, but what time they were harvested.

Is there corn???

It's not what it used to be, apparently

But of course. What is. ;)