Eating Local: Not As Virtuous As We'd Like To Think?

The New York Times

Is it immoral to buy a tomato, in New York, that has been grown in California? Are the energy expenditures required by modern factory farms one of the evils of our present food system?

Last week one of the most emailed articles at The New York Times challenged both of these extreme views, and the piece, an op-ed by Stephen Budiansky, seemed to have touched a raw nerve in locavores.

Budiansky, who blogs at Liberal Curmudgeon, took some of the dogma of local eating to task and asked whether the virtues of energy efficiency are really the reason to eat local. He says,

Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use.

You can see a little more about the basis of his numbers here, and you can read the original piece at The New York Times:

Math Lessons for Locavores at The New York Times

Kerry Trueman of Eating Liberally shot back, crackling, at The Huffington Post, where she accused Budiansky of setting up straw men, knocking them down, and generally "tar[ring] all eat-local proponents with the same broad brush, warning us that we're turning into a bunch of joyless, sanctimonious schmucks who are flimflamming an unsuspecting public."

Whew! Read her full response here:

The Myth of the Rabid Locavore at The Huffington Post

Did you read the piece? What did you think? We think the debate is a tad overheated, but we do welcome any discussion of this issue. There seem to be far too many people who accept certain aspects of eating local as good without looking at the science and economics behind it.

We love eating local — out of the backyard, ideally, or from the farmers market. But this is more for reasons of taste, freshness, and supporting a local economy. There are many items that are indeed better sourced from afar, and, ultimately, the real point is that all of these questions are too complex to be boiled down into simplistic dogmas.

Related: Organic or Local: Which Is More Important to You?

(Image: Emily Ho)

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