Downsides to Eating Local?

Forget for a moment all the reasons you might have heard for why eating local isn’t practical or easy, including anything I have mentioned over the last week or so.

While there are some legitimate obstacles in eating local foods on a regular basis and over time, none of those things should discourage any one of us from trying. I, for one, am very thankful for the experience, and fully expect that my family’s local content in the food we eat will be significantly higher going forward.

So, what happens if more and more people figure out how to eat more local foods? Given the well-established and pervasive industrial food system (from seeds to retail), such changes would surely have a significant impact on today’s balance of power.

How would the federal government’s commodity crop subsidies be impacted? And what would we do with the huge surpluses already being produced? Would the increased consumer demand for edible crops give farmers the incentive needed to begin transitioning farmland?

How would more local food impact the 50,000 square foot supermarkets dotting our cities and towns with tens of thousands of items on the shelf, many of which are highly processed and/or far from local foods? Would they adapt their infrastructure to accommodate regional supply, even though their systems are highly centralized? Would they lose sales and be forced to adapt?

Would concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) be put out of their misery (pun intended)?

Clearly, for every increase in local eating, someone or something loses out. It isn’t hard to see that the massive multinational corporations found at each stage of the food chain, along with their owners and investors, would be the biggest losers. Because moving toward local (or regional) food economies decentralizes the power structure and money flow that these entities have worked so hard to concentrate and control since the early 1980s.

So if massive corporations and shareholders lose, then who wins?

Small to medium sized farmers. Regional food producers. Locally or regionally-owned food retailers. But the biggest winners will be consumers, who will increase the amount of healthy, nutritious and tasty food they consume.

Seems like a great outcome doesn’t it? There just one thing standing in our way – money. More specific, the idea of large corporations giving up market share and profits to far smaller local and regional food businesses is hard to imagine, since these companies are already spending tens of billions of dollars marketing their products.

Is this what we really want driving our diet? Corporate profits?

If you’re like me and my family, then the answer is absolutely not, so we will struggle through poor labeling of local foods, we will continue supporting our CSA farm, our above average expenditures at our local food co-op, and participate in every eat local challenge that comes our way.

After all, in the end it’s up to consumers to decide.

One response to “Downsides to Eating Local?

  1. Multinational corporations found at each stage of the food chain, along with their owners and investors, would be the biggest losers – that’s fine with me.

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