There are a lot of great, albeit traditionally left-winged reasons to eat locally. Eating locally supports small family owned farms and food producers, decreases the carbon footprint of your meals, discourages industrialization of farming practices and therefore the prevalence of pesticides and herbicides, supports your local economy, increases community sustainability, decreases dependence on the migrant workforce and foreign energy sources, and generally results in healthier meals and fresher/tastier food on your table. And we wonder why more conservatives haven’t hopped onto this bandwagon.
But there are a couple of reasons for eating locally that the conservative right can get behind. Eating locally is the best protection against food-related outbreaks of illness and diesease and eating locally is the best way to combat agroterrorism. That’s right, agroterrorism, the malicious use of plant or animal pathogens to cause devastating disease in the food supply.
In 2006 Michael Pollan wrote an article for the New York Times discussing the role of industrialization in the prevalence of food-related outbreaks. While his article was written in the context of a spinach-related E coli outbreak, the recent problems with the peanut industry and the worldwide outbreak of swine flu have brought the issue back into focus. In his article, Pollan argues that the centralization of food processing and distribution centers leads to more frequent and widespread issues of infection and contamination, whereas food grown, processed, and distributed locally decreases the reach of food-related outbreaks and allows for faster and more efficient identification of sources and solutions to food-based illnesses. Pollan further goes on to note that when Tommy Thompson retired from the Department of Health and Human Services in 2004, he said “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do.” This sentiment was reiterated by the G.AO. in its 2003 Bioterrorism report to Congress, “The high concentration of our livestock industry and the centralized nature of our food-processing industry make them vulnerable to attack.” And they’re right, in 2006 eighty percent of beef in the United States was slaughtered by four companies and seventy-five percent of all precut salads were processed by only two companies. The implications of these numbers when viewed in the context of the spread of disease and our current healthcare crisis is terrifying. And the proof, at least lately, is in the peanut butter.
What this means is that food consciousness is no longer the proprietary holding of the liberal left, but a necessary and immediate change that must be made in the daily lives of ordinary citizens for the protection of public health and safety. Take back your health from the hands of industry, eat locally, and with compassion.
To read Michael Pollans article:
For more information on farmers markets, eating locally, and CSA food shares: