In keeping with the international flavor mash-up that is today’s post, I am sharing the conclusions of some personal preliminary research on whether eating local food is more environmentally-friendly. Perhaps your first thought is “of course”. Doesn’t food grown close to home help prevent global warming because it requires less fossil fuel to transport? But… after reading an article on the topic of whether locally-produced food is more environmentally friendly in the journal Environmental and Resource Economics, I now know it is a more nuanced issue than I previously suspected.
The authors state in the abstract: We concentrate on the tradeoff between production and transport emissions reductions by testing the following hypothesis: Substitution of domestic for imported food will reduce the direct and indirect Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with consumption. We focus on ruminant livestock since it has the highest emissions intensity across food sectors… While shifting consumption patterns in wealthy countries from imported to domestic livestock products reduces GHG emissions associated with international trade and transport activity, we find that these transport emissions reductions are swamped by changes in global emissions due to differences in GHG emissions intensities of production.
…Which means that the environmental benefit of eating food produced locally is outweighed by the environmental cost of said local production (if I am reading the research correctly). Why? Because producing food “intensively” (on a mass scale, in a location that enjoys advantages of climate and other environmental factors, with the addition of specialized technology, etc.) may, at least in some dimensions, be more environmentally-friendly than areas with less intensified production (because greater intensity often means more efficient).Food: is economic efficiency aligned with eco-friendliness? In some cases, yes. Click To Tweet
For further reading on this topic, access the following articles:
- Food Miles Don’t Go the Distance
- Food Miles are Just a Form of Protectionism
- How the Myth of Food Miles Hurts the Planet
- The Inefficiency of Local Food
Perhaps as much as we would hope that buying local food is the most environmentally-friendly option, in some cases, it isn’t. Let’s be clear, locally-produced food provides many benefits aside from fewer food miles. In addition to probable advantages of freshness , local food production can:
- Anchor communities and beautify blighted areas
- Be an educational resource
- Solve an important problem of access for disadvantaged populations
- Support the local economy
- Be more likely to avoid the misuse of chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones or other substances that endanger the environment and human health
- Bolster insect diversity, enrich soil, and create border areas for wildlife
- Be tastier (since industrial food is bred to withstand long-distance shipping and mechanical harvesting)
This Slow-Cooker Spiced Pork Ramen recipe honors our global food system with its internationally-inspired flavors. It is also a wonderful thing to prep on Sunday night and enjoy throughout the week… just hold off on cooking the mushrooms and heating the noodles until the night you’ll enjoy it. 🙂 Add the toppings fresh each time, too!
- Slow Cooker
- 2-3 lbs pork shoulder roast (or butt)
- 4 cups broth, plus more of needed
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp thai red curry paste
- 1 tbsp ginger juice
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp chili paste
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- For Serving
- 1 lb sliced button mushrooms
- 2 packs shirataki noodles, drained
- 4 soft-boiled or fried eggs
- Sliced jalapeño or fresno peppers, chili flakes, cilantro, green onions
- Place the pork in a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients for the slow cooker, and cook on high for 8 hours.
- Turn off the heat, and remove the pork form the slow cooker. Shred the pork with two forks or your tools of choice, then place a large skillet over medium heat.
- Place the shredded pork in the skillet and add all of the skillet ingredients. Toss to combine, then cook, stirring/turning frequently, until brown and crispy and all of the liquid has cooked away.
- Place the broth in the freezer while you crisp the pork. The goal is to cool the liquid enough so that the fat can be skimmed off. When the fat has been removed, heat the broth in a medium soup pot. Add the sliced mushrooms, and the drained shirataki noodles. Bring to a boil, then ladle into serving bowls and top with the crispy spiced pork, eggs, peppers, chili flakes, cilantro and green onions.