Skip to content

Question of the Week: Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

2008 July 14

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Much of the food we buy is grown in other places and transported to markets or restaurants where we live. Some people have tried to be “locavores,” consuming only locally-grown food or products, in an effort to reduce the environmental impacts from transportation, cold storage, or others.

Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

.

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Gran parte de los alimentos que compramos son cultivados en otros lugares y transportados a mercados o restaurantes cerca de donde vivimos. Algunas personas han tratado de ser “locávoros” o “locávores” al tratar de consumir sólo aquellos alimentos o productos que han sido cultivados localmente en un esfuerzo por reducir los impactos medioambientales de la transportación, el almacenaje frigorífico, u otros.

¿Usted presta atención al lugar de donde provienen sus alimentos?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

166 Responses leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Who has time? I would like to support the local producers, but if I did that I would probably only eat corn and beans! Can someone figure out how to grow bananas in Colorado?

  2. Yiayia permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Definitely – both for environmental, human rights and health concerns, I feel its the responsible thing to do. I think all food stuffs should have a chain of custody before being placed in the market. I don’t like the idea of produce being grown here and processed in China (apple juice) or anywhere else for that matter and return shipped here for sale. The US isn’t perfect but we don’t claim to be.

  3. Christine permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes. I shop at the neighborhood farmer’s market whenever possible, and check where things come from at the grocery store. I’ve pretty much given up buying things like berries shipped from South America in the winter. I don’t need them and they usually taste bland anyway.

  4. Linda Knopic permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Hoo-yea for everyone that answered yes! We not only look for the origin of our foods, we look for the origin of everything we purchase! We have no prejudice against the people living in other countries but we know a lot of Americans and very few people living in China, Pakistan or Korea. So, we would rather contribute to the Amercian economy. In the end it all comes back to benefit everyone and every community.
    There is also the black eagle trademark on produce that has been farmed, managed or picked by members of the United Farm Workers Union. Visit the UFW website, this is one group of unsung heros that advocate for the hispanic farming community, they encourage legal immigration and fight for humane working conditions. We like to look for the black eagle on our produce so support them, too!

  5. Raj permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I personally haven’t paid much attention though I buy vegetables and fruit from the farmer’s market in Spring/Summer and try to grow some veggies at home too, albeit with limited success. However, I don’t believe in paying more than 50% for organic or locally grown produce in supermarkets since I believe that some producers and re-sellers take advantage of the health conscious – thinking that pricing is very elastic when it comes to your health.

    One thing that was not mentioned much is the benefit of eating frozen vegetables packed in the US or USDA certified organic canned goods. Frozen vegetables are cleaned and packed under sanitary conditions in the US and their nutrients last much longer on the shelf than their fresh counterparts. They are also convenient to cook as well! You can also buy organic canned beans, tomatoes and other vegetables for cheaper than regular fresh produce with no added junk. These are cheaper alternatives to buy healthier and environment conscious food. There is no need to bust your bank account to eat healthy. Just use better judgement when buying your produce. If you are paying outrageous prices (> 50%) , it is most likely because someone is taking advantage of you. Think about it for a second. Why should it cost more if you don’t need an assembly plant, or to transport or store or protect with insecticides or employ a lot of people to grow and sell the food. A 50% price hike is more than enough to justify the loss of economy of scale.

  6. Megan Westmeyer permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes – I always pay attention to where my food comes from, but so much of it is unidentified. I’ve had the most success by developing relationships with local food producers. I buy beef from a farm about half an hour away – it is the best beef I’ve ever tasted and I’m very confident in the animal husbandry and food safety practices, because I know the farmer and I’ve seen the facilities. I buy as much local produce as possible as well, through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture. While I started off buying local for enviromental reasons, I’ve found that I feel safer because I know where my food is coming from, it all tastes better because it is so fresh, and I’m also helping to support the local economy. And to top it off, my food costs haven’t gone up nearly as much as everyone else’s because the food isn’t being shipped long distances (burning very expensive oil). I really win all the way around – I haven’t found any down sides.

  7. Maria permalink
    July 14, 2008

    It has been so amazing to watch all of the greif that has been going on, food tamperment, increase in illness and all because of the foods we should have been trusting from the beginning, my brother and sister inlaw are now growing organic beef, and chickens and they are in production, my husband and I are seriously considering growing our own organic gargen for food that we pay to eat from the store can end up killing us. Why is this happening? We do not have enough people in place to check everything that comes into our country, I think we all need to get back to basics, we should all know what we consume and make sure it is healthy. We do as a nation allow too much export, this area needs to be cut back. We provide more than enough food of our own to substanciate our people here in the U.S. It is a real shame when we have all of one product removed from the shelves of any market, because someone else chooses to be selfish and produce low standard product.

  8. cecilia quirarte-ortiz permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes I do pay attention. I don’t buy anything from Mexico or Chile or any country that is not regulated by the US. – thanks.

  9. Barth Anderson permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I’m 100% local so far today, baby!!

  10. Emma permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes. Absolutely. I only buy organic and opt for local as much as possible, even if it means I have to shop around a little or not get certain produce because it’s out of season. I definitely don’t think that US produce is better than imported. If it’s not organic (or you’re not talking to the farmer) then it could have anything on it.

  11. OrangeClouds115 permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes! Once I began buying food directly from farmers, eating food of unknown origin began to feel, well, kinda gross. Like putting bubblegum you found under a chair in your mouth, or like sleeping with a hooker. You just don’t know where it’s been!

    I’ll admit though – it’s a luxury. And it’s not always easy. I have to plan my life around it to a certain extent. I consider access to local food when I decide where to live and which jobs to take. I am very lucky to live about a mile and a half from a terrific farmers market that operates year round in Southern California. My weekly shopping budget is probably a bit higher than someone who shops at Safeway for their food. I’ve noticed that I get sick less since I began eating this way and at one point I actually lost 15 lbs because I was eating well and biking to work. (Then I moved next door to a bakery and got a job I had to drive to… I’m not that skinny anymore).

    Eating local foods is rewarding not only because of the health benefits and the fantastic, fresh flavors you enjoy but also because you can reduce your impact on the earth and you can help your local economy. I would like to see our government help structure our society in such a way that allowed more people to eat locally – for example, by providing farmers markets with the equipment needed to accept food stamps.

    To discuss local food and other food-related issues, please check out my blog at http://www.lavidalocavore.org

  12. Daniel permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I try as much as I can, but it’s difficult to convince my mom that she should buy local (and not highly processed/packaged)

  13. Nancy K permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes, I do.

  14. Dee permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Meats – free-range, only. Vegetables, etc. – I need to pay more attention to locally grown foods. This question and the responses above have been good reminders to me to focus more on this.

  15. Leigh permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I prefer buying food from USA as it is regulated by USDA. I prefer buying organic food from Whole Foods although it can be budget breaking. Interesting point as I went into Target to purchase a new lamp a while back. Everything was made in China. I saw no american made lamps. I would pay slightly more for a better product made in US if available but don’t have all the time in the world to peruse stores just to find American made items (I do chose American items when readily available). I think part of the problem is that our society thinks more is better but those are not my values. I prefer better quality even if it means less quantity. Besides, what about keeping jobs in US where we have standards in place to protect our workers and the products that are made. I don’t think product safety standards are the same globally. Take a good look at our society with all its debt and you can see what type of trouble we have gotton ourselves into. I’m frustrated because I did not create this problem. I suffer nonetheless because of the decisions others have made.

  16. phaley permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I pay attention because of the price and quality….Jersey’s corn is great!

    Often I can not tell where the food comes from though. We do buy organic when it’s available but it is oftem much more expensive.

  17. Kathy Tibbits permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes. I shop at my local Farmers’ Market to get local vegetables and fruit. I buy Made in Oklahoma straight from the farms every month at OklahomaFood.Coop.

    When I do buy from stores, I choose organic foods and use organic fruits and vegetables in my juicer and dehydrator, so I’m not consuming pesticides.

    But my favorite food is from foraging, and the few things I grow– tomatoes, basil, polk, blackberries, persimmons, peaches, apples– in my yard. Also, my father feeds us from his garden, which he has maintained since 1962, and the grapes, peaches and apples in his yard.

  18. Lynda permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Absolutely. who wants to encourage the energy and waste that goes into the average food item traveling 1500 miles to get to my table?The more I learn, the more I try to be a locavore. My landscape is either edible, medicinal or native. Vegetables and fruits and teas all come from my yard. I have chickens for eggs –and nearly all else comes from my weekly farmer’s market!

  19. Susan permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I certainly am much more aware of where my food is grown, especially in light of the most recent contamination of tomatoes and who knows what else!

    Let’s be honest – some of the countries that we import our fruit and veggies from aren’t exactly the cleanest and I’d hate to think of what they use for fertilizer. What standards are in place? We don’t know and that is the problem.

    I’m buying from the local farmers market whenever possible and I’ll spend a few extra bucks at the Whole Food Market when I need to. I can’t wait to get my own garden and I won’t have to worry so much.

    So, if I see fruits and veg imported from Mexico, I can tell you that NO, I certainly will not purchase it. We need to support our farmers.

  20. Karnie permalink
    July 14, 2008

    ABSOLUTELY! Every ounce of meat I’ve purchased for human consumption in the past two years has been local and traceable to a specific farm with farmers whose names I know. My fruits and veggies are probably 90% local. I do buy an occasional avocado or banana – and they are not local – but those purchases are made consciously and deliberately. Further, I try to choose restaurants and stores that are committed to local as well.

    It takes a little more time and a little more effort to buy local, but it is soooo worth it in quality, taste and it’s also good for the local economy.

  21. Jay Warner permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes, we try to notice origins. However, this is difficult in the USA. Produce may be repackaged in the US, hiding the country of origin. Fresh grapes in spring & early summer? Gotta be South America somewhere, but you’d never tell from the display.

    Then we need origins that proclaim the US _state_ of origin. I’m told that the oranges from Florida and from Arizona, while equally clean and healthful, are different types / strains. I’m afraid the suppliers are not interested in giving consumers this information, if they fear it might hurt sales. More consumers need to publicly refuse to buy _any_ produce of unspecified origin.

    We buy from a local farmer’s market when possible. It costs more :(, but it is usually fresher, fewer people handled it, and if anything is unclean I know just where to go to complain. Besides, the ethnic diversity of our farmers is much better – wider – than that of our grocers, so it is more fun – more American(!) – to visit them.

    Last year we harvested enough tomatoes and peppers to avoid purchasing any in the winter. So we don’t care where tomatoes contamination came from — we don’t buy _any_ fresh ones.

    So yes, origin locations of this family’s food is an issue with us, and our suppliers are not giving us the information.

    Jay

  22. Regina DiLavore permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I buy 95% of my meat from farmers within 50 miles of my home. I shop at the Farmer’s Market, subscribe to a CSA, and we grow our own vegetables. I take the time during the summer to preserve these foods so I don’t have to buy many vegetables during the winter. When I do buy fruit at the grocery store, I only buy US grown food. I am also particularly picky about fish and will only buy wild from Alaska.

  23. July 14, 2008

    Maybe you can share some information with her. Some very good websites are http://www.sustainabletable.org,www.localharvest.org,www.foodroutes.org,www.centerforfoodsafety.org,factoryfarm.org,foodsecurity.org. Any of Michael Pollan’s books are a reality check.
    Processed foods are extremely unhealthy, especially for children. Child obesity and diabetes are epidemic in this country because of it and fast foods. Good luck – you deserve fresh nutritious foods. Can you grow a small garden or veggies in pots?

  24. July 14, 2008

    Above comment is for Daniel

  25. Lori permalink
    July 14, 2008

    Yes of course, not only does less transit mean less emissions, but the produce being picked ripe always tastes better and it helps the local economy. I prefer farmer markets.

  26. July 14, 2008

    For David – Consider the true cost of what you purchase. See http://www.truecostofood.org.

  27. Irvin permalink
    July 14, 2008

    I certainly do. I will not buy any food or food substances that come from Mexico or China.
    I refuse to buy most produce from domestic growers because of pesticides and use of sewer sludge for fertilizer (all approved by our government)
    I refuse to buy any product that is not labeled “NO GMOs” or “does not contain growth hormones”. I do verify authenticity.
    I refuse to buy any meat unless I know exactly where the animal was raised. No growth hormones or antibiotics. I am tending toward vegetarian.
    I consider most foods approved by the USDA and FDA “hazardous” and in most all cases buy organic from Whole Foods and Cox Farms (local growers) to be safe.

  28. Far into the North permalink
    July 15, 2008

    yes! i just sat down from making fish head soup and processing all of my subsistence salmon from yesterday. i love being a part of the harvesting to table process, it really puts me in touch with where i live, what is important here, as well as connects me somehow to my at sea husband who commercially fishes for wild alaskan salmon. t

    his activity for me is especially important this year, because with food prices and transport costs being so high, i am really relying on subsistence this year to support my family through the winter. also, the season has been slow and corporation processing prices haven’t been great. add that with the high cost of fuel coming out of my husbands fishing share, and it is a good thing we can live off the land here, i don’t know how else we would make it.

    so many people don’t connect their food with the process, with the people behind it. honestly, the people i know who are most into sustainable food sources, really aren’t the ones who can afford it, but realize the direct connection that they are having in supporting a fellow person who is working just as hard as they to get by.

  29. Derrick Leedy permalink
    July 15, 2008

    I really pay attention where may food comes from. It is very important!
    1. The Colorado River has been contaminated with Perchlorate which is an oxidizer used in solid rocket fuel. When an american rocket flight is aborted the Perchlorate falls to the ground and ends up in the groundwater and waterbodies. It is prevelant in southern California and in 34 other states. Even organic farms can be organic even if they irrigate with water containing Perchlorate. It can have neurological effects on our childrens early development and has been linked with hypothroidism in kids. Perhaps children with hypothyroidism could be tested for Perchlorate. This chemical is also changes the endrocrine system. It is Androgenic (male) in people. So far adults have not seemed to be affected just our kids. I won’t buy lettuce from Southern California or states around the Colorado River. Henderson NV grounwater is very contaminated. The use of this oxidzer really needs to be banned in the U.S. There are alternatives.

    2. Our bodies now have over 100 chemicals in them that were not even invented 100 years ago. Now you know why the sperm count in males has fallen drastically.

    3. The last time I was in my local store I saw that all their garlic came from China but the label has a U.S. Flag on it.

    4. We are what we eat and breathe – Foods need to be labled as of the country of production. It’s pretty easy to produce chemical free foods. I notice even the large supermarket chains carry a lot of organic foods.

    5. To bad the foods are often canned with cans that have plastic liners. Most coffee cups have a plastic lining that leaches plastic into our hot drinks.

    Eat Well, Exercise, and Live Long.

    Derrick

  30. Duane permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Other than going to the local farm market how can you tell where you food is coming from? Seems like stores would brag that their was locally grown, produced, or packaged. I remember a number of years ago the slogan “Be Americam, Buy American” and “made in America” but I haven’t seen “Produced Locally” stickers at the store.

  31. George permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes. I live in rural Virginia and it is easy to find local foods at good prices. I imagine it is more difficult for people who live in densely populated areas to buy locally.

    One thing I would like to see people buy more of is grass fed beef. Much of the cattle on the east coast is raised to a certain size and then shipped to the midwest for corn feeding and weight gain (called finishing). If we keep the cattle in the east and finish them on grass, we can save a lot of energy and reduce the impacts on the cattle. Grass-finished beef is better tasting and better for you and the cattle get to live a much more natural life.

  32. Sharon permalink
    July 15, 2008

    NO

  33. Susan Willoughby permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes absolutely. We own an organic farm and sell produce and flowers to local markets. We feel like it is the biggest contributions we can make to our surrounding communities. We believe strongly that small farms are a key to rebuilding our culture in a meaningful way and hoping we can stop this movement towards a corporate culture. Having no choice where food comes from is a dangerous way to live.

  34. Heather permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Absolutely – I will buy local when I can, and non-industrial meat when I can.

    However, I’ll buy non-local when a local equivalent is not available (avocados in NJ).

  35. Matthew J. Kelm permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Well, sometimes I buy from Giant and then there is Safeway. However, I do go to Whole Foods and Trader Joes for organic foods that I would need. Oh…………..wait………..you mean country? Hmmmmmmmmmm………….I prefer organic food and I prefer international foods, like Chinese dumplings or Crepes. Baozi is my favorite!!!!

  36. Moderation in All Things permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes – With our society as it is, it has become increasingly important to know the supply chains and support local production of goods and services. Through our global economy we have many more opportunities – but we also have needs that should be supported through local networks. It is the combination of these sources that allows for greater selection, greater nutrition, and energy efficiency. Thus, it is very important as to know how the systems work – to allow for a variety of needs to be met.

  37. Anonymous permalink
    July 15, 2008

    You are doing like most of the people, just looking at price, thus just having a short sight vision. It is your choice but life is more than saving 25 cents here and there…………. once the planete will no longer sustain human life because it is all polluted, altered and contaminated…… how important will your money saving be? And how about thinking about leaving an healty planet to our children? Will saving 200 $ a year will help your children? Also, by purchasing locally, you create work for your own people……….

  38. Wernerlll permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes, including restaurants where I quit eating sea food since the servers have not been told a thing as to sources, just that it comes “…from the ocean…” – not funny I know, since the FDA is not staffed to sample more than 2% of imports.

    We do not buy ANY products from Mexico, China, Indonesia, etc. but Canada, US – wild or organic labels.
    Congress seems to be helpless with one party running obstuctions wherever they can.
    After all, people are expendable according to some…

  39. Wernerlll permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Excellent Kathy,
    In WW II in Europe and thereafter, people were given small plots of land whenever possible to have them tend to their gardens for nourishment and winter storage in cellars.

    Is it time to bring that idea back instead of building more housing on productive lands (nurseries, small farms, open space, etc.)?

  40. Stephanie permalink
    July 15, 2008

    I do my best to try and buy locally but with the rising price of fuel and everything else, I have to mostly go with price when it comes to buying groceries.

  41. Anonymous permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes, whenever possible. For example, I live in Georgia, so I only buy Florida oranges and not California oranges. I go to farmers markets as often as I can, which is not just local but usually much cheaper and fresher.

  42. Quinn permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Absolutely! Especially “fresh” produce. The more local the product is, the better is is for my family and the environment as well. It is guaranteed to be more fresh, and small farms tend to use less inorganic pest control methods, as they do not have such large crops to tend, and organic pest control methods are more feasible. Also, the more local the product is, the less travel required to get it from the grove to our table- you just can’t beat local produce!!!

  43. Sharon Tinianow permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes, I put a priority on local foods. There is a farmer’s market in my neighborhood from May to October that makes this easy to do in the summer.

  44. Quinn permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Wernerlll, the idea you were speaking of (small plots of land) HAS actually been brought back in some communities, such as in Detroit, where the foreclosure of homes has been a huge issue. I heard this story on NPR and thought, “what a wonderful idea”. I’m too young to know much of the details post WWII (that weren’t in History books), but what is going on in Detroit seems to be very similar. However, it isn’t the government that initiated this, it is a non-profit organization- similar idea, still.

    Check it out: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91354912

  45. Frank - New Jersey permalink
    July 15, 2008

    No with some exceptions. I shop at a well known chain store and expect that store to provide only reliable, safe products. I am selective for only certain fresh produce in season known to be grown locally, e.g. melons, tomatoes, peppers, corn, etc. puchased from a roadside stand.

  46. Chuck permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes. Due to the chemicals that are utilized in our food products today, I am ever more concerned about what I eat and how it was produced.

  47. Melinda Harper permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Yes, I do pay attention. That is one of the reasons my husband and I grow a lot of our food at home in our garden. We know how the crops are raised, and that there have been no pesticides or other chemicals applied. We also shop at local farmer’s markets around the area; that way we get great produce while supporting small businesses in the area. I have always believed that area restaurants should work with local producers to supply food items for consumption. It supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint. It seems rediculous that a restaurant should have to bring produce from across the county when that same produce is available locally.
    Raising and working in one’s own vegetable garden is also a great way to help children develop a work ethic (identifying what has to be done, then doing it, and doing it well), something that is sorely lacking with a lot of youth today. And, there is nothing better than a fresh tomato or a head of lettuce fresh out of the garden. In our area, we have some community gardens, but not enough. Community gardens could be used to feed those less fortunate, and improve the quality of food these families would be eating.

  48. Costa Rica Travel Channel permalink
    July 15, 2008

    well we all grew up eating famous imported fruits like CHIQUITA Bananas, and now these major imoprters are leading the way in developing sustainability, and programs for the poor in central american countries. So go ahead and eat a banana and watch this video to see what i am talking about:)

    http://www.costaricatravelchannel.com/watch/05321542838d77f85522/
    Chiquita-Green-Promo-Short–English

  49. Lina-EPA permalink*
    July 15, 2008

    Just saw a relevant article on American farmers moving south of the border in search of vast stretches of arable land. Isn’t the world getting smaller?
    We wonder how “local” is really local nowadays. At this point, is “local” US vs anything from abroad?
    Sharing the article–http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0716/p01s01-woam.html

  50. John in KY permalink
    July 15, 2008

    Ask this same question 6 months from now, i.e., in the DEAD OF WINTER, and see if you get different answers about “locally grown” stuff…..

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS