The movement for eating local food has seen a steady increase in patronage and support over recent years. This farm-to-table trend has been a great boon to local food producers. No great surprise; there are a great many benefits to prioritizing buying and eating local food. And the rewards, well, they just couldn’t be better.
What specifically makes eating local food so great, and why should you take pains to support and patronize your own local meat farms and local food producers? There are social and economic benefits as well as personal and nutritional benefits.
Social and Economic Benefits of Eating Local Food
From a social and economic standpoint, the farm-to-table trend has delivered a variety of benefits.
Food less traveled.
When you eat foods close to your home and their point of origin, you are choosing foods that have not had to travel quite literally thousands of miles to get to you (not uncommon occurrence for commercially-produced products and commercial grocers).
Food that is shipped around the nation and around the world as opposed to food from local food producers carries with it negative impacts, which include an increase in fossil fuel consumption and pollution, (higher carbon footprint) and all that that entails.
Increased processing equals even higher increased energy consumption.
The farther away food is from its point of origin, the more likely it is to require additional processing and storage. Food grown closer to you and purchased more directly from the grower or producer is generally less processed.
Much of the energy burden associated with food production comes after harvest like bagging, shipping and handling, etc., until it can reach the consumer. Local food delivers the advantage of reducing utility and energy consumption, which means that it has an even more reduced environmental impact.
Reduced handling = reduced risk.
When food is produced and consumed locally from start to finish, it requires less travel and potentially less handling. There are fewer supply chain entities involved, and fewer steps between the grower and the consumer. This means fewer facilities, fewer shippers, and fewer potential opportunities for your food to be improperly handled or to endure fluctuations in temperature, etc. Eating local food increases accountability and sustainability.
Buying local food grows the local economy.
If you are supporting a local farmer, in addition to supporting that farm, you are indirectly supporting all the local businesses in their supply chain. You are creating jobs on that farm as well as maintaining other jobs in your community.
Small farms buy their raw materials, machinery and equipment from businesses in their communities. Money spent locally with smaller entities stays within the local economy.
Personal and Nutritional Benefits of Eating Local Food
Although the socio-economic benefits of local food buying bring a lot to the table, there are a great number of personal benefits for the consumer as well. Chief among them are benefits of quality and nutrition:
The luxury of getting to know your producer.
Nowhere in the commercial food chain can you hand-pick the producer of your food as you can when buying from local farmers. You can see and tour the farm as well as meeting your local farmers. Proximity, transparency, and communication allow you to hold the important conversations and choose from among those who grow their vegetables or raise their local meats in the humane and sustainable ways that matter to you.
Local food can be more nutritious. This is because smaller local farms produce more accessible seasonal organic produce, organic meats, grass-fed meats, healthier pastured and free-range meats and eggs, produce, and more. Local food endures less premature harvesting and stress in shipping and handling, which prevents more quality and nutritional degradation.
Local food is more delicious.
This is not just a marketing slogan. When extended lines of production and handling impact quality and nutrition, they impact real flavor, too. Local food reaches you at the peak of ripeness under the best harvesting conditions in the shortest possible time, which is reflected in the taste.
Increased health benefits.
Without making any other changes to your diet, you can significantly impact your health by changing not just what you eat, but by choosing better food sources; those have been shown to be more local, conscientiously grown meat and food products.
As the nutritional profile of your chosen local meat and produce increases for all the reasons aforementioned (and others), benefits like decreased fat content, increased vitamin content, and higher antioxidant profiles naturally contribute positively to your health.
Local meat farms and local food producers are working diligently to provide great sources of quality foods for local consumers. It’s a winning situation with lots of benefits that start with local farms and local farm customers, but that carry far beyond.
You can learn more about clean eating and the benefits of pastured-raised chicken here:
Tyler Johnson says
That’s a good point that you would have to add a lot more preservatives to the food to be able to ship it across the country. I would think that if the preservatives would add calories to your food that you could help cut down on the amount of them you eat by eating local foods. I’ll have to consider getting some at a local market or something and see if I like it.
Susan Jaffe says
Hi Tyler, thanks for stopping by! While I can’t comment on the caloric content of the preservatives, I think its important to stress that some preservatives may not necessarily be good for your health, so its more than just calories. It’s about eating local to positively impact your medical bills, co-pays and health!
Sarah Packer says
My family is going on vacation soon, so I wanted tips on choosing places to eat since we always go to chain restaurants. I didn’t know when you eat local food, there’s more accountability and sustainability for your food. That’s a concept I can get behind, so I’ll look for dining and local restaurants my family would love, thanks to this post!
Susan Jaffe says
Hi Sarah! Thank you for visiting our site and posting your comments. Remember, it’s slow and steady that wins the race when it comes to changing how we source our foods and eat. Enjoy your family vacation !
eli richardson says
I like how you said that local food is great because it is picked at the peak of freshness and doesn’t sit in a warehouse at all. This would be a great thing for restaurants to do because it would mean that their food would be really fresh as well. Having fresh food that people can enjoy would surely increase your reputation and help you get more people to eat there.
I liked that you explained that local food endures less stress when it is being shipped or handled and can have better quality. My sister is coming to visit me soon and she mentioned that she would love to go to a restaurant that uses exclusively local produce. I think it would be great to search online for options and see what would be available to us.
Cathy Farris says
I have been trying to eat healthily for many years. In 1971, I stopped eating meat, but 10 years later, I started eating organic poultry, as I was working as a chef’s assistant and she insisted that I had to try foods made with chicken stock, and I believe she was right. I am a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” and it has motivated me to eat more locally.
I belong to a local CSA, and have bought your chickens through the Catskill Food Hub. They are delicious but IMHO too fatty. At this point, particularly in late summer and fall, I eat only local produce. Thanks for your reinforcement.
Susan Jaffe says
Dear Ms. Farris,
First, my apologies for this delayed response. Thank you so much for your support of our and other local farms as well as the Catskill Food Hub. We appreciate your love of our chickens. With regard to the fat, it is very rich and many of our chefs use it to make stock for your soups and other dishes. We hope you stay healthy and safe.