Should I buy local? Should I buy organic? What’s the difference between the two? These are questions you’ve likely been asking yourself as the food industry has rapidly plummeted into the traps of a globalized market. As technology and production methods have advanced, so have a new breed of “super-farms” which are out producing the farmer’s market down the street and gaining mass profits from it.
What is the benefit of this? We have a tremendous supply to satiate our demand. But it has its downfalls; your patrons really don’t want glufosinate ammonium as an “extra” salad dressing. We all understand that it’s best to serve our loyal customers the freshest and cleanest food, but who on earth can afford all of those pricey organic foods?
Organic food is produced by farmers who champion the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. You may have heard the common misnomer “if it’s grown local, it must be organic” which, unfortunately, just isn’t true. In order for a produce to be organic, it must go through strict USDA inspection to ensure that it NEVER, from the time it is planted to the time is it sold to you, comes into contact with a chemical. Organic meat must be hormone and antibiotic free. These tough measures that are placed on growers, packagers, and distributers are exactly what make the “organic” label worth an extra dollar per pound.
But take nothing away from local food, which also has its benefits. You’re definitely going to get much fresher food and support your local economy when you buy from a local source. Please note that when going to a local farmer’s market or roadside produce stand, you should always ensure that the food you are buying was actually locally grown, as opposed to an out-of-season product shipped from across the country. A lot of the chemicals used on the non-local food you find in the grocery store and elsewhere are preservatives that keep a carrot fresh during its epic 2000 mile pilgrimage from grower to distributor. So, when you buy local food (that is truly local), you at least know that there are fewer chemicals in your purchase. If you can’t afford to purchase organic foods, buying locally grown food is an excellent alternative.
There’s a good chance that you have at least one source in your area that offers both organic and local food. Serving meals that are both local and organic will help you preserve the environment, boost your local economy AND keep your patron’s white blood cell count at a normal level. You can reap the benefits of serving this slightly pricier food by gaining a positive reputation as an environmentally conscious restaurant owner. Be sure to check out my blog next week, when I’ll be discussing the best ways to find and buy organic!