Food miles drive him to thinking

Writer Stephen Budiansky with sheltie Snip, one of his two farm dogs (Photo courtesy of the author)

Virginian and “liberal curmudgeon” Stephen Budiansky had a piece published in the New York Times op-ed page last week about food miles that has, not surprisingly, riled up a lot of folks.

Budiansky, who, raises his own lambs and most of his vegetables, made mathematical mincemeat of lovacore logic. From his perspective, of course. Many commenters on his blog begged to differ. As for me, everyone’s calculations of energy calories made my head spin. Bottom line, according to Budiansky:  the energy required to move food even across the whole country is a trivial component of the energy costs of the whole food system. Food for thought, indeed. He also says:

“ ‘Food-miles’ are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use.” Agreed.

And, “the problem is the way the food gurus have turned the whole ‘locavore’ thing into one of those doctrinaire, authoritarian, and joyless religions that all too often make environmentalists their own worst enemies.” Yes, but … I would say that *every* advocacy movement suffers from this, whether liberal or conservative. It’s called: human nature. 

And this: “The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far.”

This brought to mind a friend who started buying farm-fresh sides of beef as a way to buy local and use all parts of the cow. Great – except she had to purchase an extra freezer to store the meat in. A freezer that will be gulping down electricity 24/7. Does that make sense?

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