March 31st, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Challenge of Eating Locally Raised Food
The movement to focus on consuming locally grown foods has gained so much national momentum in recent years that the term “localvore” was the Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year in 2007. The term refers to people who only eat food grown, processed and produced within a 100-mile radius of where they live. Some refer to it as the “100 mile diet”. Amazingly, the average item on the American dinner table travels 1,500 to 2,000 miles to arrive there. With local farmer’s markets on the rise, eating locally raised food should be pretty easy – right? Well, for some items like produce, eggs, and some dairy, the opportunity is constantly growing in many communities across the country, and availability is ever increasing. Obviously, for foods like chocolate, coffee, and certain teas there will never be the option for local eating. What appears to be one of the more challenging items is finding and eating local meat.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of slaughterhouses nationwide declined from 1,211 in 1992 to 809 in 2008, while the number of small farmers has increased by 108,000 in the past five years. The issue appears to be infrastructure. Many people who are very knowledgeable on this issue have been saying for years, “it’s not the shortage of food that’s the issue for local eating; it’s the infrastructure”. This past Sunday, the New York Times did a nice article about this situation and how it affects local meat production. It’s definitely worth the read. You can also go here for even more information. If we are going to ultimately become a society that relies on local communities for food production, then we must rebuild the local food infrastructure for processing and distribution. This is a huge paradigm shift for a country that reaches 1,500 miles or more for its regular dinner menu.