Food Policy

The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet


"If you take the local food movement to its logical extreme…people who live beyond their local food chain are essentially parasites," explains economic geographer Pierre Desrochers, co-author of the book The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet .

Using economic and historical data, Desrochers and his co-author Hiroko Shimizu pick apart the latest food activist trend extolling the benefits of eating local. "If everything was so great when most food was sourced locally centuries ago," asks Desrochers, "why did we go through the trouble of developing a globalized food supply chain in the first place?"

Desrochers sat down with ReasonTV's Nick Gillespie to discuss the book, the benefits of factory farming, and the enduring nature of food activism.

About 5:45 minutes.

Cameras by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain. Edited by Meredith Bragg.

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  1. "Eat local": What is that? Like "Buy American"?


    1. Don't outsource our food, Bro

  2. I thought the locavore thing was originally foodies getting OMG AGW freak on.

    1. No real foodie would ever be a locavore. EVER. Because if you are, you just denied yourself most of the most wonderful food on the planet.

      Oh, I live in Seattle? No jamon for me. No prosciutto. No figs. No asparagus. No broccoli rabe. The list is endless.

      1. It's kind of moot anyway, since people who describe themselves as foodies should be beaten with a sack full of Big Macs and Diet Coke cans.

      2. But think of the great stuff you can store over the winter in your obligatory locavore root cellar: rutabagas, half-moldy apples (lots of those in Washington state!), potatoes (but not from Idaho!, un-youns...


      3. Semi on topic: why tf does WA state have an "asparagus commission"?

        1. Jobs created or saved. For bureaucrats.

        2. You don't want non-commissioned asparagus running around!

          1. You mean the non-commissioned asparagus don't follow the orders of the commissioned asparagus? Chaos!

              1. Us buck privates are referred to as "radishes".

            1. The messboys didn't eat the asparagus, someone had made a duplicate key! And I'd have proved it, too, but Luitenant Maryk opposed me at every turn! They were all disloyal!

      4. No sugar either.

  3. Local food chains tend to overexploit a resource until it's totally gone.

    Think California shellfish.

    Our global food chain, combined with the coming population crash, sets us up for the best of all possible worlds: inexpensive food, combined with light-impact exploitation levels. A planet of 3 billion humans can still wipe out some local food sources if everyone is localvore. But it will find it damn hard to do so if we retain our global supply chains.

  4. Yeah, I really love my Ohio grown Bananas and Oranges. Also, I hear our corn farmers here complain all the time about the burden of having to supply corn to the non-local population. it's a real burden.

    1. Any takers on my tropical fruit farm in Michigan? Anyone?

      1. Ah, you can't grow everything everywhere, but you should take advantage of what you can get locally.

        Michigan cherries, blueberries, or strawberries for example. Yum.

        Bought a large bunch of local strawberries and turned them into jam. Now we have delicious, cheap jam for the rest of the year.

        1. Specialization: The reason for the global food supplies.

          1. I thought it was mostly weather.

            1. Weather is what leads to specialization. You can't really grow mangoes too well in Ohio, and I've never heard of Hawaiian potatoes.

        2. you can't grow everything everywhere, but you should take advantage of what you can get locally... if it provides you more utility than the globally-available alternative.

          I know what you're saying, but let's just say that I can buy Northern Illinois-grown tomatoes a few months a year, but that doesn't mean they're any good.

          But sweet hey-sus do I love the tomatoes from my in-laws' garden when we visit Kentucky over Labor Day.

        3. There's this new book out with some innovative ideas about how what you have in abundance can be traded for resources that you are scarce in, and how this process increases your overall wealth. Check it out some time.

          Not as well known as Krugman, but then again he didn't sink the Japanese economy either.

          1. Modern day radical. That's just nuts.

        4. Many people are very locavorical. We're called "gardeners".

    2. Well if you'd stop eating all that imported citrus you'd buy more local corn. Jerk.

    3. I don't live within a thousand miles of a hops or barley farm, so I'm out.

      1. just because those things are not grown on the large farms in your area does not mean they are impossible to grow. It might just not be the most efficient thing to grow on a large scale in your area. But if you wanted to I am sure you could grow yourself a nice little batch of hops and barley.

        1. I could maybe grow enough to get through a day or two. What about the rest of the year?!

        2. 21 pounds of barley for a year's worth of average beer consumption. Not insane, but certainly more work than most of us want to do.

          1. I sometimes go thru more than 21 lbs in a single 5 gallon batch.

            1. What the hell are you making, rob? Barley treacle?

              That's a US average for 20 gallons of beer. Since most beer sold in the US is light beer, I'm sure that knocks the numbers down.

              1. The smallest all grain I've ever done was still 11 lbs to 5 gallons.

                1. Ive done smaller. My norm is 10-12 lbs.

                  I did a 20 lb batch recently to be a barley wine. Its a bit on the small side, to be honest.

            2. Yeah, this "year's worth of average beer consumption" is apparently a bottle once a week.

          2. Lets calculate this.

            Pros want 90%+ efficiency coming out of the mashtun, home brewers dont get that.

            Pilsener Malt has the highest extract potential amongst the malted barleys, at ~1.036 per pound per gallon.

            Assuming 75% apparent attenuation and a 5% ABV, how much barley do we need for a 12 oz bottle?

            (1.036-1)*.9*.75*.131=3.18% abv in one gallon from one pound
            5/3.18=1.57 lbs per gallon for 5% ABV
            1.57/128*12=0.15 lbs per 12 oz bottle

            21 lbs/0.15 lbs = 143 bottles

            Huh, thats closer to reasonable than I expected, at just under 3 beers per week.

            Homebrewing, my total brewhouse efficiency (not just sugar lost in mashtun, but lost elsewhere too, is consistently 68%.

            1. And that works out, for a professional efficiency, to right at 8 lbs per 5 gallons for a 5% batch.

          3. Also, who the fuck wants to go thru the trouble of malting their barley.

            And is it even remotely feasible to do on such a small scale?

            1. It is, actually, but no one in their right mind would ever want to do it. Watch:


        3. I don't have time or desire to grow my own food; that's why I pay others to do it for me.

        4. That would involve malting your own barley. While not impossible, it is an enormous PITA and the professionals would probably do a better job than anyone here would. Some specially converted base grains, like Maris Otter, are probably impossible for an amateur to replicate.

          Hops are possible, but they have their own list of problems. Aphids love hops. That means they need constant pesticide applications to keep them off. Then when you harvest them, what do you do with them? They'll rot if they stay wet, so you have to dry them out. This usually involves a dehumidifier and lots and lots of fans, and a pissed off significant other (who hates the smell of hops for some reason, fuck off woman). Again, not impossible, but very time-consuming. Some hop varieties will not work in your soil, also so you'll never be able to grow those hops.

      2. I don't want to go to Oaxaca to drink mezcal.

        1. A vacation there would be nice, though. It's just that I probably wouldn't remember most of it.

  5. The past couple months My wife and I started shopping at our local farmers market. The produce we find there is about the same price as what is available at the grocery store, or even much cheaper, and always much, much fresher and better tasting.

    The thing is, not everything can be bought at the farmers market, so we still get most of our food from the regular grocery store. And I have no problem with that. The difference in fresh peaches or fresh strawberries is always going to much larger than the difference in getting other types of food locally.

    1. Our experience is pretty much the opposite. Produce dramatically more expensive, and not particularly better than the grocery store. I agree that fresh fruits can be better than the grocery, but it's hit or miss. We stopped going when my wife said, she wasn't going to pay $3.00 for a bunch of carrots that's 79 cents at the grocery.

      Going to farmer's market, to me at least, is more of a status thing that well-to-do professionals can afford to show their progressive bona fides.

      1. Perhaps a status thing, but I recall it as being more in the nature of entertainment when I was a regular at the excellent Madison WI farmer's market.

        1. We've got a mix in Chicago. Green City is mostly about status and entertainment, while a few very serious chefs (home and commercial) go for specific ingredients that can't be got elsewhere, at least not of the same quality.

          But the neighborhood markets are mostly a chance to get pretty good deals on very fresh produce. There's a farm that sells herbs at several of them that probably work out to 10% of the cost/weight you get at the grocery (e.g., $1 for a romaine-head size bunch of basil.)

          That said, I mostly just go to Stanley's.

          1. mostly, mostly

      2. New England would either have to be evacuated or live like 19th century Ireland if the 50-mile rule was mandated.

        1. Not the shore, dude. But the rest would have to eat New England's true crop: rocks.

          1. What about fog-dwelling monsters? I'm pretty sure I've read several hundred books stating that Maine is lousy with fog-dwelling monsters.

            1. And sewer-dwelling clowns. Or giant spiders. Or something.

              1. The clowns taste terrible.

                1. Wash off the greasepaint first.

              2. And sewer-dwelling clowns. Or giant spiders. Or something.

                Just so you know, we're Cthulhu cultist around here. King is actually worthy of a Nobel in lit, but it's Lovecraft for the win all the way down the line.

                1. Though that was one scary ass clown. Damn, clowns are scary even when they are not trying.

                2. Beg to differ -- King hasn't written a decent book since "Pet Sematary." Lovecraft, however, is the greatest supernatural writer of the past hundred years. IA! IA!

              3. Maine has sewers?

                1. Yup, they run straight to the ocean.

          2. At least granite is nice and crunchy. Mmm... feldspar-y.

    2. I wonder how the Gaea-worshipers would react if we had weather-control and other technological solutions to whatever problems or perceived problems they have with the world.

  6. Good review of the book and takedown of localvores at Spiked

  7. "why did we go through the trouble of developing a globalized food supply chain in the first place?"

    So more people around the world could eat you fucking retard.

    1. Why would we want to eat him?

      1. Organic retards FTW!

    2. I think the global food chain was developed so large corporations could turn a hefty profit by providing resources(food) to people in areas that could not access those particular resources. E.G. people all over the world like bananas, but they don't grow well everywhere.

      The global food chain gives access to a larger variety of foods, but not everything can be shipped perfectly, so if you have something grown in your area, you might be able to get a better quality product by taking the local version. And some things are still only availible in some locations, so take advantage of those if you can.

      Of course, the profit is seen as horrible by the leftists, nevermind the good that comes to so many by having their nurtient needs met.

      1. You seem to take great pride in re-stating exactly what was said in this video.

        1. I think I was trying to say what SIV says below, but it just came out too wordy and the point got lost in there somewhere.

          1. SIV is very succinct.

  8. "why did we go through the trouble of developing a globalized food supply chain in the first place?"

    The answer is obviously: CORPURASHUNS!11!

  9. Remember, eat only locally processed Soylent Green!

  10. So did he write a book basically repeating the same thing Walter Block, Steve Horwitz, and dozens of other economists have already pointed out?

    1. Walter Block

      He wrote a book about locavores?

      1. His chapter defending the Importer in Defending the Undefendable covers locavores. So... maybe.

    2. If wasting breaths is such a concern for you I would think that you'd try to avoid wasting breath on pointing out wasted breaths.

      1. Is this John's Law squared?

  11. Scratch a locavore and at some point, you'll find the subject of "food security".

    There's a belief that if you can grow everything in your backyard, your food source is secure, sort of like eliminating our dependence on "foreign oil".

    However, as the post suggests, getting your food from dozens of potential international (or non-local) sources is precisely what gives us food security.

    1. Precisely. Peaceful trade is far more secure than xenophobic isolation.

      1. Peaceful trade is far more secure than xenophobic isolation.

        Why do libertarians hate America? If you want to eat foreign food you should move to Somalia and try to eat there!

        1. But in Somalia you can't get to the food because there's no (all together now!)...


        2. ROADZZZZ!!!!

          1. ROADZzzzzz...damnit! I'm always late.

  12. The Local Food movement will disappear the first time the New York city elite has to go through a whole winter with nothing to eat but pickled beets and potatoes.

    1. So...never?

    2. Is there any sort of strain running through the movement advocating for compulsory localvorism?

    3. You forgot the artisanal mayonaise.

    4. They'll have urban honey to sweeten them, though.

    5. And pigeons. They're not bad, by the way.

  13. I'm definitely a Four-Lokavore though.

    1. Oh, so you've already been outlawed.

  14. Incredible that the action of people being able to buy all kinds of food from all over the world needs defending.

    1. Not really ... when you think of how asinine it is to fly in oranges from Austrailia when they're grown right here.

  15. Here in Taiwan, American lemons (!) are competitive in the local market. Judging from it's availability and price, it's probably cheaper to ship fresh west coast US produce here than many places inside the US. To rephrase an economics quote I once heard, Taiwan grows food in electronics factories.

    1. And Washington apples in China.

  16. I figured this out the other day. The grocery store (Ralphs) has signs that have all sorts of permutations of "local" on them hanging from the walls and rafters. And then they have the same selection of food from all over that they always had. So we can be all smug without actually having to make a serious commitment.

  17. Local food is great; I do it when I find things I actually enjoy, vs eating nothing but chard for three weeks. But, factory farming is the only practical way to supply protein for 7B people.

  18. Stainless Steel Jewelry
    Stainless Steel Jewelry has the added advantage of being a more rugged alloy than gold or silver as it is nearly indestructible. Stainless Steel Jewelry is ...

  19. Another phony "our freedoms are being infringed" argument. No one is forcing anyone to eat and buy only locally. It is only an attempt to make aware that in addition to having better and fresher taste, local food should provide cost effective alternatives to that which is shipped from far away.
    Much of this is just intuition: do you think that a locally grown tomato in New York will taste better than one shipped in from California earlier in the week? I do. Do you think that eating locally helps the country to use less imported oil coming from countries run by dictators? I do. Do you think buying locally benefits your most closest neighbors? I do.
    If not, keep at it. Stop complaining about people who put a little thought to it all.

    1. Do you think that eating locally helps the country to use less imported oil coming from countries run by dictators? I do.

      This depends a lot on what is being grown. Transportation is only a part (what, 1/6 or so tops?) of the energy costs of growing food. Those can be dwarfed easily by a greenhouse or heavy irrigation or out-of-season growing or other inefficient practices. And many people who buy local food demand those things.

      If eating local means eating only foods that are found naturally in the local area, sure, it probably does save energy costs. But if you really want to cut overall energy costs, hey, the "best" thing to do is cut out the dairy and meat. AFAICT more people buy local because it feels green and haven't thought through what that actually means.

      1. The greenhouses, irrigation, and out of season growing are all still a potential in non-local foods as well. Therefore we could have those costs PLUS shipping across the country.
        At least when we buy local we know we have limited the shipping costs and oil use.
        And no need to get into who is greener argument. I don't care. At least buying local is a start. If one then moves on to limiting meat, great. If not, so be it.

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