Eat Global, Not Local
A Madison family is shunning the SUV diet and thriving on the 100-mile diet.
Although wistful for citrus, soy sauce and better bread flour, Jen and Scott Lynch and their daughter, Evie, pledged to stick to this diet for the month of August, consuming only ingredients from a 100-mile radius around their home in the Bay Creek neighborhood on Madison's South Side.
The SUV diet refers to that of the average North American, whose meals are made from ingredients that travel about 1,500 miles from source to consumer.
"We know that locally grown food is better for our environment, better economics, better tasting, better for our health and better for our relationships," the Lynches write on their blog, www.vidalocal.blogspot.com, through which they share their story without pushy proselytizing.
Sure, when it's in season and available. What happens when Wisconsin harvests are dismal and there isn't enough food to go around?
The article details how the family mills their flour and makes their own peanut butter from fresh peanuts. They say this lifestyle is "better economics". Really? Is their time worth nothing? Apparently so.
They are Jen Lynch, 33, who is a house cleaner; Scott Lynch, 38, who's unemployed now but formerly worked in sales and marketing of sporting goods equipment, and their daughter, Evie, 7, who is home schooled. They have the time for an experiment that means purchasing wheat to mill, sift and use for homemade bread, crackers, tortillas and more.
Given a daughter that's home all of the time and an unemployed husband, maybe they do have enough "free time" to make all of their own food.
But what would it be like if everyone in the nation spent most of their time either farming or preparing food from ingredients produced locally? Well, it'd probably look a lot like the 1860's. People were smaller, frailer, contracted chronic ailments (heart disease, lung disease, arthritis) at an earlier age, and died sooner. Poor nutrition paid a large role in that.
The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence -- a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.
New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone "a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth."
And if good health and nutrition early in life are major factors in determining health in middle and old age, that bodes well for middle-aged people today. Investigators predict that they may live longer and with less pain and misery than any previous generation.
That is, if we avoid fads like "food miles" and embrace the "SUV diet" instead of avoiding it.
What about the claim that eat local is better for the environment? Recent studies say, that's just not true.
It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product's carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production -- what economists call "factor inputs and externalities" -- like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.
Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand's clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.
You can eat that way if you want. I'll protect the environment, live economically, and raise healthy children by eating food from around the world. Corn from the midwest, citrus from the south, sugar from Brazil, meat from the southwest. It's the progressive thing to do.