Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eating Local

"Eating local", meaning buying food from local farmers, often through community supported agriculture (see USDA link) is getting trendy. (Of course, that's a way to put it down.) The idea is that the farmer profits by getting more of the food dollar, the environment gains because there's less energy used to move the food around the world, nutrition gains because there's less nutrient loss in processing and the consumer gains because the food tastes better.

I've no real quarrel with any of this, but I suspect it works better in the restaurant environment, as this article on the gains being made in the Washington suburgs shows. Why? Because the basic tradeoff (and there's always tradeoffs, as Robert Heinlein once wrote--there's no free lunch) is time for the benefits. It takes time to travel to the farm or farmer market, select the food, and come home and cook. It takes time to gain the expertise to make good meals from what's seasonally available. So it makes sense for the affluent to eat local at their restaurant, and to choose among restaurants based on that criteria.

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