Voltaire said that the best (or the perfect) is the enemy of the good. And when it comes to diet, there is a definite risk that setting standards of perfection will paralyze us into inaction. On the flip side, it’s not great to let a few good choices make us so complacent that we don’t seek to do more.
A good example of this in the world of dietetics occurred when Americans got cholesterol savvy and started trading in beef for white meat such as chicken. That was a moderate improvement in eating habits that let people feel good about their diets—but by itself, it doesn’t make a diet “heart healthy.”
More recently, I’m seeing examples of this in regard to diet and environment. I live in a fairly progressive community of people who are, for the most part, sincerely committed to making choices for the greater good. Most are devoted to shopping and eating locally and choosing sustainable types of food. Our little farmers’ market is bustling in the summer and the food co-op is always crowded. Restaurants tout their sustainable menus with meat, dairy and produce from farms right here in our rural county.
Eating locally-produced food is good, of course. There are many excellent reasons to support community businesses and family farms. But the effects of those choices on the environment are marginal at best compared to the impact of eating a plant-based diet.
A study published last year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that reducing red meat and dairy consumption is far more effective than buying locally-produced food for reducing greenhouse gases. In fact, the researchers estimated that reducing consumption of these foods by just 11-19% was as effective as 100% local buying!
Do shop locally and buy organic when you can. But for real impact, nothing compares to eating a more plant-based diet.
Can you provide a citation? I'd like to read the study. Thanks.
I found the cited article here:
And it contains a link to the study authors' original article.
For a more indepth critique of locavorism (from a vegan perspective) you may also wish to read "Green" Eggs and Ham. A copy can be found at
http://www.upc-online.org/thinking/green_eggs.html and at
Thank you for sharing your paper here. When I first started reading your essay I had a scowl on my face, but by the end of it my face had softened thanks to my open-mindedness and my outright shock of Salatin’s anti-feminist views. As well as the fact that I, being a Spanish studying student and having lived in Mexico, will not tolerate discrimination and having close friends of mine being transgender and bisexual. Anyways, there is one thing I wanted to say though, is that on YouTube I found a video of Barbara Kingsolver’s husband talking about not only about local food but also local clothes (here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIwzVx8-CP0&list=LLM1p64yXPyuvQOMXKVZo_6w&index=3&feature=plpp_video). There’s also the fact that Kingsolver also pointed that, while be stoutly against veganism, she did acquiesce to vegetarianism and I agree with her reasons on that, unless you know otherwise? Since seemingly, as you suggest, slaughterhouses be they conventional or Joel Salatin-size are not environmentally friendly because of the energy and resources they use up but what about eggs? Milk? You may have mentioned it but I just want to clarify. I was vegan but, living in Mexico, I’ve decided to become vegetarian just because it’s easier and because I now firmly believe it is better to eat local eggs and milk (at least in the US, in Mexico I still use soymilk since I get sick drinking milk from Mexico) than factory-produced soymilk and tofu and any other processed vegan food (like soy-products). Plus when I first drunk some local milk I couldn’t get enough of it, I drunk the entire glass jug in a weekend and never got sick despite having not had milk in over a year. Anyways, about clothes, I am trying to buy nothing from China and so I have been buying my clothes at Good-Will and the various thrift-stores in my small-town rural Pennsylvania college and the town surrounding it. I also, going back to food, buy all my chocolate fair trade and there is a local coffee shop that has only fair-trade coffee their too as well as tea and local fruits and vegetables for their paninis and salads. So for the most part I am convinced with your argument since you have obviously done ample research and have completely changed my opinion of Joel Salatin. As a woman myself my goal, now, is to do the work that I love (translating from Spanish into English) and buying from a farmer’s market each week and maybe have an herb garden since I want to live in a city so that I will never have to buy a car oh and I hope to never travel by airplane but rather by train, which takes a LOT longer but is usually much more comfortable. Except, of course, if I have reason to go back to Mexico or any other central or southern American country but I have no interest in going to Spain. In addition I want to live in a small “eco-house” or a condo, with no one but myself as resident. Anyways, I hope these aspirations are not too far-fetched but of course it will be a long time until they’re even possible since I’m still in college though I can eat completely local food while at college as long as I live off campus. I thank you for your essay since I am always trying to find the best research done about topics I am passionate about so I am not blindly spitting out false assumptions of things. Also, any resources like articles or books you might recommend please tell me them, even though it’s quite possible that I might have already read them. Thanks!
Although not for everyone, there are tons of recipes online for homemade nut-based milks. And they don’t look that hard. So that way you have very fresh milk, you avoid some mass-processing, and you avoid the cruelties of dairy: forcing mother cows to be almost constantly pregnant and lactating, taking their babies from them (so the milk can be diverted to humans), killing the cows in the prime of life, etc.