This is a hard one, and could also be another UK thing. Given its size, there is a lot of food in the US that is presumably shipped by air, although I know that trucks are used a great deal too. As far as I know, there is no way to tell this in the US. I know in some stores there has been an effort to get more locally grown produce, etc., and in New Jersey, that means tomatoes, believe it or not.
If you are in the UK, of course, you can go to the Fairtrade site above for more information. Fairtrade is more about justice and sustainability, than necessarily about food traveling long distance. According to their FAQ:
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
They have more than 3,000 products under the Fairtrade label, and in 2006, that did 290 million pounds UK in business, or more than half a billion US dollars. I don't recall seeing much in the US on this sort of thing, but I freely admit that, before I began the Carbon Fast, I have been woefully ignorant of all this.
So how to eat as locally as possible? The Daily Mitzvah blogged yesterday about trying to eat locally (they're on a slightly different Carbon Fast schedule than is The Proper of the Day) and it isn't easy. It means looking at labels and checking websites and stuff. As I contemplate my own breakfast shortly, I have to admit that the cereal and milk I'm going to eat isn't very local. the milk is....[going to go check]...processed in Maryland and the cereal God-knows-where.
Is there automatically a net benefit by buying locally? It all goes back to the cost-vs-risk equation. The fact that I can get fresh dill in February to make my grandmother's dill dip for an Oscar get-together is a wonderful thing. Minor, but pleasing. That dill probably came from California. Dill is not available until about June here in the Northeast if grown locally. So my buying that bunch of dill helped a farmer or conglomerate somewhere, and the shipping and distribution firms that got it to me, and of course the grocery store I bought it from. Is it a question of buying now and paying later? The economist in me wonders what the net benefit is, or even if it can be quantified.
And more than that. I can contemplate a scenario where, even if I just consider perhaps a hundred miles or so around the New York metro area, that our winter diet would be far more limited:
- Dairy, yes. Lots of dairy farms in the upper Hudson valley. Cheeses I assume so also, but limited. I know of New York cheddar, and so I guess there could be others as well.
- Meats: Hmmm. I really don't know. Chicken is a possibility; but I'm not aware of much else. Maybe lots more frozen stuff, but of course that takes energy too. To my knowledge, there are no local beef herds. Would we actually want to reintroduce them?
- Fresh bread: I assume so, because wheat, etc., can be stored until it's needed. Are there any commercial bakeries in the area? I don't know.
- Pasta: Sure. it can be dried. And canned sauces too, which is good.
- Deli stuff: sure, just watch the shelf life of the meats.
- Fruits and veggies: very little. This is the big downside of this area. Lots can grow here, but the growing season is shorter. Most of our fruits and vegetables come from the salad bowl states or even overseas, especially in winter. Lots of root vegetables, I guess - potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets would be back on the menus of the area.
So today's Carbon Fast activity definitely has me thinking. And, as an Anglican, I do believe that's a good thing! Of course, one should never stop thinking, but one should also start doing as well.
Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.