When I think about transportation and food, the term “food miles” comes to mind.
I don’t know about you, but I get a certain amount of pleasure. albeit rare, knowing that a meal I’m eating was grown or raised by people you've met and made from 100% local ingredients. Recently, I was at Slow Food’s PigHampton fundraiser where the estimated food miles was 5 miles - roasted pig, wonderful corn, tomatoes, coleslaw, apple crisp! That was pretty easy to do in Bridgehampton in September. In NYC I’m happy with a meal that racked up a maximum of 100-250 food miiles. Besides being good for the environment, eating locally produced fare is better for your health -- meats are leaner, dairy is cleaner, and fruits and vegetables fresher and more nutritious. And, all local food tastes far more DELICIOUS.
There are lots of questions to ask…How did the food get here? How was it grown or raised?
Was the tomato delivered by a small truck driven a short distance or a large refrigerated truck that’s traveled from California? Was the olive oil shipped via rail or ocean liner? Did those mushrooms arrive by airplane?
Transportation does matter. Nothing drives me crazier than a menu full of imported fish at restaurants in New York City and the Hamptons -- fish that flown from Europe, South America or the Pacific. New York has an incredibly diverse and thriving seafood industry so why so many frequent flier miles for the fish ? (Humbly, I do admit that some tiny fraction of the time, I crave salmon from the Pacific Northwest or order Branzino, which is European Sea Bass – shame on me!)
Far more damaging to the environment, human and animal health, is how food is grown or meat raised, what chemicals are used and how waste is managed.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2006 report, livestock farming generates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — versus all the planet's cars, trains, planes and boats contribute just 13% of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the past few months, I’ve cut back on meat, fish and poultry consumption as well as cheese and milk. I did it more for dietary reasons -- a fantastic way to lose a few pounds -- but I’m finding that I have more energy on a low animal product diet.
I feel better know that my carbon footprint is less, far less, eating more plants and grains and less meat and dairy. My family has decided to eat more meatless meals, so we’re having more salads, pasta primavera and New Orleans style red beans and rice and less beef, lamb and pork.
Some things that I do that help me eat more locally grown and seasonal food and less "imported", out of season foods.
-- Try a CSA, and shop at nearby farm stands or farmers market. Eat in restaurants that support local food. You can be confident the food is no or low spray and grown in rich soil with few chemicals.
-- I buy locally caught fish -- Long Island's Montauk is one of the largest commercial ports in the US.
-- I preserve foods in the freezer (and promise to learn more about canning).
-- I Cook a lot and buy very few pre-made foods.Check out over 50 recipes on Lighthearted Locavore
Learn more about Farms, Farmers Markets on this blog