Eating locally produced food and buying locally produced products is a nationwide growing trend. It is a trend that is both economically feasible and environmentally sustainable. Eating locally means that the foods you buy are fresh, tasty and healthy.
The shift toward local food sources is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a place.”
From this article you will gain an understanding of some of the benefits of eating locally produced foods.
What is Eating Locally?
-Buying foods grown as closely to where you will eat them as possible.
-Altering your diet to substitute foods shipped from far away to local foods.
-Paying attention to where your food comes from.
-Making an active decision to source the freshest foods, produced as close to your home as possible.
Eating locally sourced food gives you the opportunity to know your farmer. You will be able to see how the animals are treated and processed. You also have the opportunity to look at the upcoming crops and ask the farmer how they go about certain aspects of their farming.
This sense of community may be lost on industrial scale farmers. They do not often have to interact with their consumers and as such, may prioritise profit over quality.
Benefits of Eating Locally Sourced Foods
Locally Grown Food is Full of Flavour
By growing and eating locally, both the farmer and consumer can ensure that crops are picked at their peak of ripeness. This is better than crops being harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local shop. You can often find that produce at local markets has been picked within 24 hours of your purchase.
Eating Locally is Eating Seasonally
Even though we would like strawberries to be grown all year round, the best time to eat them is when they have been picked in season and bought directly from a local grower. They will be full of flavour and taste a lot better than ones available in winter. The ones available in winter may have travelled thousands of miles and been picked before they were ripe.
It is less likely that the nutrient content of locally sourced food has decreased. This is due to a shorter time span between harvest and being eating. Food that has been imported from far away countries is often older. It has travelled and sits in distribution centres before it gets to your shop.
Eating Locally Supports the Local Economy
Any money that is spent with local farmers and growers stays local. It is usually reinvested with businesses and services in your community and local area.
Local Food Benefits the Environment
Farmland and open spaces in your community can be helped and maintained by purchasing locally grown produce.
Local Foods Promote a Safer Food Supply
The more steps between you and your food’s source increases the risk of contamination. Food produced in distant areas has the potential for contamination at harvesting, washing, shipping and distribution.
Asking Local Farmers and Growers
You can ask local farmers and growers what practices they have used to raise and harvest their crops and livestock. When you know where your food comes from, who has grown it and how it has been grown, you can make a more informed decision about what food is right for you.
Local Fruits and Vegetables
-Local production of fruit and vegetables are less likely to use excessive pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Pesticides and chemicals are not only dangerous for farm workers. They can poison the ground water and make drinking water dangerous. Pesticide residue on your food can also act as a carcinogen and increase the risk of getting cancer.
-They do not need to be shipped thousands of miles to be distributed. Meaning that the nutritional content of local fruit and vegetables is higher.
-Food contamination risks are lower among small scale productions. On a small scale it is also easier to contain any damages when a contamination does occur.
Local Meat and Dairy
-Animals used to produce meat and dairy locally are more likely to be raised free range, in their natural habitat. Industrial farms use Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This puts the animals in confined spaces. This stresses the animals and reduces the quality of the meat or dairy. It also increases the potential for rapid spread of disease and illness. Animals in this environment are regularly treated with antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant forms of bacteria in both animals and humans. Meaning that the bacteria are so strong that there is no antibiotic strong enough to kill it.
-Rather than eating corn based diets used in CAFOs, free range animals eat the food they were meant to eat, like grass. Corn based diets help to gain weight as fast as possible. It also causes the meat to contain more saturated fat. An alteration in diet can make animals ill which may mean more antibiotics.
Buying seasonal goods and eating locally produced foods means that you will be eating food that is the freshest, best tasting and least expensive compared to food shipped from other areas or grown during a different season and stored until it is sold.
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