Organic Food or Local Food: Which is Better?

In an ideal world, maybe all of our food could be both organic and local, but very few people can eat that way nowadays. Until recently, the emphasis was on organic food. Then, with the rise of the “locavore” movement, people began to realize the advantages of locally grown food.

If you haven’t come across the word locavore before, don’t be surprised. It was the 2007 word of the year for the Oxford American Dictionary. In other words, it’s a new term. Locavores are people who eat as much of their food as possible from local sources. Some people experiment with just eating food grown within about one hundred miles from their homes. This means that they are likely doing without coffee, bananas, avocados, and other tropical delights.

But most locavores are simply focusing on getting whatever they can locally, either from farmers’ markets or from their own gardens, and filling in as needed with things from further away.

Why is this going on? People have realized that food transported many miles, often many thousands of miles, isn’t so environmentally friendly. There are significant energy costs for the transportation. Of course, if we are talking about fresh produce, it may not be so fresh by the time they see it in their local grocery store. Locally grown produce often tastes better, and it may well provide more vitamins and minerals.

There are some arguments against the locavore movement. For example, some third world countries rely heavily for income on the sale of their produce. One writer calculated that tomatoes grown in the fields of West Africa and flown to England used less total energy than tomatoes grown in greenhouses in nearby Europe.

Returning to the question of organic food and local food. It’s usually not possible to know which one is going to be healthier for you, on a meal-by-meal basis. Research has shown repeatedly that organic foods are healthier than non-organic, which makes sense. They are not drenched with chemicals, and they may be grown on soils that are better cared for, with organic compost worked in. However, with the advent of mass consumer organic foods in chain stores, much food labeled organic may not be that well grown.

The best thing is to just do whatever you can to eat in a healthful way.

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