The New York Times have kindly published letters to the editor in response to an article by Stephen Budiansky titled Math Lessons for Locavores.
The first letter caught my attention and I felt it was worthy of sharing here for those who might find themselves wondering if eating local is really the way to go.
Stephen Budiansky writes that locavores are wrong to worry so much about how far our food travels when the “real energy hog” is you and me: “Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.” This may be true, but the lion’s share of the food system’s energy use comes from six other elements of the food chain, precisely the sectors locavores are trying to avoid.
A recent Department of Agriculture study reported that 28 percent of food energy use comes from households while much of the rest — 57.6 percent — comes from the processing, packaging, transportation, wholesale and retail, and food service energy use that locavores are seeking to avoid.
A real locavore cares about all of these steps.
A locavore wouldn’t go for a Twinkie, even if the Hostess factory were two miles down the road.
I’ll grant Mr. Budiansky that whether we stir-fry local organic kale or cook up a sauce of long-distance chemically grown tomatoes makes little difference solely in home-energy use. But I disagree that the entire locavore approach — avoiding fast food and highly packaged, processed, chemically grown and long-distance food — makes no difference to the environment, our health or the planet.
With this holistic approach to the plate, locavores are potentially creating a huge energy savings indeed.