Did you know that the average American meal travels for about 1,500 miles before it arrives on your plate? There are a lot of reasons this is not ideal. Not only does it increase our carbon foot print, or how much carbon dioxide emissions our purchases contribute to the atmosphere, but it can also lead to lower quality foods. Because fruit, for example, has to travel long distances, it is often picked while still unripe, then gassed to ripen it after transportation. Tired of being a part of this? Here are three solutions for learning to eat locally grown foods.
1. Farmer Markets
Most communities both large and small support a local farmer’s market, and this can be a great way to get produce that is both cheap and locally grown. Not only will you cut down on your footprint, but you also get a chance to support local, hardworking farmers and artisans with your money. To give you an idea of how much a difference it can make, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in California, for example, found that its apples traveled an average of 105 miles, compared to the grocery store standard of 1,555. For grapes, it was 151 versus 2,143. And so on.
2. Local Meat Markets
In many countries, the relationship a family has with its butcher is a unique part of the culture. In the U.S., the grocery store system has often broken down this bond, as well as guided us away from the expertise a butcher can offer. All is not lost, however, for several local meat markets still exist. Although we’ve been mainly talking about sustainability, it might surprise you to learn that safety is a big factor as well. The problem with huge, national factories is that they process together meat from hundreds of animals. Animal slaughter and processing occurs in the same space, increasing the chances of improper handling. Improper handling can lead to bacteria contamination. Because of the large scale of the processing, one point of contamination can spread to thousands of pounds of meat.
3. Community Supported Agriculture
Shortened to CSAs, these are farm to consumer programs, also known as “farm shares,” where people buy a percentage of projected harvest. There are an estimated 2,500 CSA farms operating in the U.S. currently, according to the USDA, and they are popular with the local food movement. For an upfront fee, people participating in farm shares will be able to come on a schedule, usually weekly or biweekly, and pick up some of the latest harvest. This is a great way to get a wide selection of local veggies while they are at their most fresh.
Have you frequented local meat markets or CSAs? Let us know in the comments