This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
I have many family members and friends who live in parts of the country where local fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, etc. are not so easily or affordably obtained.
Additionally, I just finished reading the book, Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James McWilliams. McWilliams gets a lot wrong in his book and I’m not necessarily recommending it but he does make a couple really strong points that I think are important to emphasize:
1. If all we do is insist on buying locally but we don’t change any other of our consumption patterns or other lifestyle habits, then we still have a long ways to go towards eating and living responsibly. For example, if I eat tons of chips every day but now I just buy them from a local chip maker, that’s still a problem for my health. Or if I buy all my vegetables locally but still let half of them go to waste, I still have a problem with wasting food.
2. As a nation (and as a world), we cannot go on eating meat at our current insanely high rates (regardless of how it’s raised). There won’t be enough land in the world to raise enough meat if all countries begin to eat meat at the rate Americans eat meat. His strongest argument is that to eat responsibly, we need to eat less meat, dairy, and eggs.
With all that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we would eat if we lived in an area where we couldn’t get much locally.
1. We would emphasize eating “real” food. That means, we’d follow the food rules that I blogged about in Part 7 of this “Eating” series. Even if everything we bought was not local, we’d still be eating generally the same food that we eat now. We would still emphasize buying ingredients to make our own food whenever we could.
2. We would buy the highest quality dairy and eggs that we could find and afford. We would prioritize buying organic milk and responsibly raised eggs. It would probably take some research to figure out what eggs to buy (as the labels on egg cartons are not reliably regulated).
3. We would do the same for meat and fish. We would continue to only buy responsibly raised meat and fish. This can sometimes be hard to find so we would probably have to restrict our meat consumption in particular.
4. I would seek out local meat and fish as much as I could. If we lived in an area with a high deer population, then we might have to become hunters. If we lived in Alaska, we certainly would try our best to catch lots and lots of salmon every summer.
5. We would do the same for vegetables. We would try to grow our own vegetables, using as much garden space and summer weather as we could find. We would seek out local sources for vegetables and learn to love and cook with what we could find locally. There are lots of cool weather crops that grow plentifully in Alaska so if we lived there, we would adjust our diet to eat more of those and less of the summer vegetables that we eat so much of now. Realistically, though, many of the vegetables we would eat would probably not be local. So we’d try to pay attention to any social justice issues inherent in the food we eat (just as slavery and other labor abuses in the growing of Florida tomatoes). We would make sure not to wasted any vegetables that we did buy and do our best to eat responsibly.
6. We would try to find as much fruit locally as we could. If it was possible to forage for wild fruit, we would try to do that (such as picking wild berries). We would also probably designate a new “local” for fruit. As in, if we lived in Alaska, we’d buy apples from Washington state but not from Chile. We still wouldn’t buy tropical fruits. We’d just have to figure out a way to eat some fruit without feeling entitled to eating all the fruit that we’re blessed to eat now. Fruit would be the hardest thing for me to figure out in the “not-local” scenario.
Generally, we would eat real food with a focus on spending our food dollars responsibly. Anyone living anywhere can make changes in how they eat to do the same, even if they never buy a single locally grown vegetable.
If you’ve read Just Food and would like a short but fairly concise critique of McWilliams’ arguments, this article highlights most of my concerns with what he writes. (If you haven’t read the book, you can also get the general idea of his main points by reading that article.)