JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, June 27, 2008

One Local Summer: a little theory

First a new word to describe local eaters, now a university study. It's not - as far as I can see from a summary I've skimmed - about pioneer locavores, it's more about projected total population change. Early-adopters are, in the nature of things, likely to have been drawn in because they've already changed their diet away from industrially-processed offerings. This study is more about outcomes if and when large populations start to change their foodprint, as the only way individuals can make a real personal difference to global warming.

The argument is that what you eat is more important than where the food came from. It would be better, so the argument runs, to eat less beef, even if it was only a switch to chicken (rather than to, say, lentils or vegetables). There's a frighteningly well-informed discussion in the comments, well worth taking a look, despite some of the usual angry partisan stuff from people who think their way is the only way.

Here's a short extract from the Ethicurean post to give you the general idea:

“All Local” vs. Dietary Shifts

As a thought experiment, the authors examine how an “all local” diet — i.e., a diet that has zero emissions between producer and eater — compares to shifts in diet in terms of GHG emissions. Since that is nearly impossible to achieve, they found that one could achieve equivalent reductions through the following changes:

* Reduce red meat expenditures by 24% and spend the savings on chicken
* Reduce red meat expenditures by 21% and spend the savings on a nondairy vegetarian diet
* Reduce red meat and dairy expenditures by 13% and spend the savings on a nondairy vegetarian diet

The authors also use a automobile comparison to illustrate how changes in diet compare to changes in driving. Using a 25-mile per gallon car as their baseline, they provided the following estimates of mileage reduction through diet shifts:

* An “all local” diet is equivalent to driving 1,000 fewer miles per year
* Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 760 fewer miles per year
* Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to a vegetable-based diet is equivalent to driving 1,160 fewer miles per year
* Giving up red meat and dairy in favor of chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 5,340 fewer miles per year
* Switching to a completely vegan diet is equivalent to driving 8,100 fewer miles per year

For me, the difficulty is that greenhouse gases (or GHG, as I see we must now call them) are only one part in a complex range of issues that fuel my interest in locavorism. For me, one of the best things is the human scale: I know the butcher, the farmer, the cheese-maker. No hope of personal contact at the supermarket.

I'm one of about 140 people taking part in One Local Summer, the challange to prepare one meal each week for three months this summer, using only locally-grown ingredients - the exceptions are oil, salt and pepper, and spices. It's thought-provoking and delicious in equal measure - and it's the best way to grapple with these issues, really grasp the nettle. There's a huge range of experience involved in this project, some of us are beginners, some can produce an all-local meal without having to think particularly hard. I'm hoping to be able to think more clearly about this by the end of the summer.

My challenge to YOU

DO think about joining us in this project, even for one week - registration has closed for a whole summer of one local meal a week, but I'm inviting all bloggers to the challenge of producing one whole local meal this summer, and I'll include you in the weekly round-up of the main challenge. I've found - and I know I'm not alone - that the first meal sparked off a lot of thought about the food we eat here, where it comes from, how it gets here, who produces it and how much they are paid for that work. There's a bonus for you - so far, the food has all been delicious!

Related posts

One Local Summer, week three
One Local Summer, week two
One local summer, week one round-up
OLS, Saturday lunch in the garden
OLS, first thoughts
Introducing OLS

Related links

The Ethicurean, Food miles vs food choices

Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States, by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews

my thanks to Kathryn at Limes and Lycopene for my original link to this research

Links to One Local Summer:

Farm to Philly
Leafy Cooking
Garlic Breath
Rural Aspirations
Karen's Home on the Blog

Useful links for locavores in the South of England

Rapeseed oil from Gloucestershire
Wessex Mill


Celia Hart said...

This is a fantastic project Joanna - as we grow lots of veg and fruit and I love finding local supplies, I think many of our meals qualify.

Last Sunday's dinner:

Roast Free Range 'Sutton Hoo' chicken (Suffolk)
Bacon from a Farm Shop Butcher - local pork.
Herbs from the garden

New Potatoes (ours aren't quite ready yet - bought from Sainsbury's but grown in Suffolk)
Home Grown Veg: Tuscan Kale, Broad Beans, Peas.
Strawberries - freshly picked from the garden.

The first of many local meals this summer!

Celia :)
Home grown - herbs

Anonymous said...

Good job, Joanna, thanks for this. It's staggering, the figures about what eating less red meat can do. I am amazed.

Anonymous said...

YES isn't the discussion thread interesting. I thought I knew a bit about this topic, but . . .

Riana Lagarde said...

thank you for the interesting links of late. i am off to do some reading of said links instead of packing!

Anonymous said...

Extremely interesting post! Those of us who live in rural isolation are used to eating local (particularly those of us too lazy to venture into the smoke!)

I am becoming more interested in provenance than local. It is much more important to know how the stuff has been produced, than where. Luckily more & more producers are willing to share their methods and provide us with traceability.

I really came back to your blog for some summer berry inspiration - so will return to it for some recipes!

Ed Bruske said...

I'm starting to think that beef or no beef is not really the question so much as what kind of beef. We are off of industrial beef fattened on grains in filthy feed lots. But grass fed beef, we're going to be eating more of it.