I read this article on Forbes today for the second time. Someone on twitter linked to it and I thought I would post it here because there has been a lot of discussion lately about eating locally vs eating vegan. In my opinion it is pretty easy to do both. Unlike our Northern neighbors we can grow food outside all year. Texas is one of the biggest producers of cabbage, onions, pecans, and peanuts in the country. We grow almost every kind of vegetable and lots of fruit too. Our grapefruit is famous but we have grapes and make our own wine as well.
In Austin local company White Mountain makes all sorts of vegan products like the tofu that you can buy in bulk at the co-op and no-egg salad and bbq tofu.
Just outside of Austin in Wimberley Texas they are growing olive trees and making olive oil. It is actually really good. The Texas Olive Ranch makes local oil and balsamic vinegar too.
Another great source of local protein are black-eyed peas which are grown throughout the state because they are so drought tolerant.
Our rice is famous all over the world too, in fact, the local company got into a big argument with India a while back when they tried to trademark basmati rice and so we have texamati now since the people in India called us on our bull shit. Lately the farmer’s market has even started carrying whole wheat which you could easily make your own seitan from.
Of course soy beans and corn grow in Texas as well but they say the average vegan who eats whole foods gets less soy and corn in their diet than the average omnivore if you consider all the corn and soy that the average farm animals eat and all that is put in processed food.
One of the best parts about being vegan is knowing where your food comes from. Lately we have picking our own vegetables at local farm Johnson’s Backyard Garden doing a co-op workshare. They are expanding their farm’s offerings and if you are interested in local food and in Austin I highly recommend going or joining their CSA.Joining a CSA, though, and eating local produce isn’t enough to save the world. The worst environmental damage is caused by people eating meat and I don’t mean people in other countries . I am talking about Americans. We created this problem with industrialized farming and until that comes to an end you can’t eat animal products and say you are doing everything you can to help the environment.
Here is the article from Texas State Professor James E. McWilliams
Why buying from nearby farmers won’t save the planet.
Buy local, shrink the distance food travels, save the planet. The locavore movement has captured a lot of fans. To their credit, they are highlighting the problems with industrialized food. But a lot of them are making a big mistake. By focusing on transportation, they overlook other energy-hogging factors in food production.
Take lamb. A 2006 academic study (funded by the New Zealand government) discovered that it made more environmental sense for a Londoner to buy lamb shipped from New Zealand than to buy lamb raised in the U.K. This finding is counterintuitive–if you’re only counting food miles. But New Zealand lamb is raised on pastures with a small carbon footprint, whereas most English lamb is produced under intensive factory-like conditions with a big carbon footprint. This disparity overwhelms domestic lamb’s advantage in transportation energy.
New Zealand lamb is not exceptional. Take a close look at water usage, fertilizer types, processing methods and packaging techniques and you discover that factors other than shipping far outweigh the energy it takes to transport food. One analysis, by Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, showed that transportation accounts for only 11% of food’s carbon footprint. A fourth of the energy required to produce food is expended in the consumer’s kitchen. Still more energy is consumed per meal in a restaurant, since restaurants throw away most of their leftovers.
Locavores argue that buying local food supports an area’s farmers and, in turn, strengthens the community. Fair enough. Left unacknowledged, however, is the fact that it also hurts farmers in other parts of the world. The U.K. buys most of its green beans from Kenya. While it’s true that the beans almost always arrive in airplanes–the form of transportation that consumes the most energy–it’s also true that a campaign to shame English consumers with small airplane stickers affixed to flown-in produce threatens the livelihood of 1.5 million sub-Saharan farmers.
Another chink in the locavores‘ armor involves the way food miles are calculated. To choose a locally grown apple over an apple trucked in from across the country might seem easy. But this decision ignores economies of scale. To take an extreme example, a shipper sending a truck with 2,000 apples over 2,000 miles would consume the same amount of fuel per apple as a local farmer who takes a pickup 50 miles to sell 50 apples at his stall at the green market. The critical measure here is not food miles but apples per gallon.
The one big problem with thinking beyond food miles is that it’s hard to get the information you need. Ethically concerned consumers know very little about processing practices, water availability, packaging waste and fertilizer application. This is an opportunity for watchdog groups. They should make life-cycle carbon counts available to shoppers.
Until our food system becomes more transparent, there is one thing you can do to shrink the carbon footprint of your dinner: Take the meat off your plate. No matter how you slice it, it takes more energy to bring meat, as opposed to plants, to the table. It takes 6 pounds of grain to make a pound of chicken and 10 to 16 pounds to make a pound of beef. That difference translates into big differences in inputs. It requires 2,400 liters of water to make a burger and only 13 liters to grow a tomato. A majority of the water in the American West goes toward the production of pigs, chickens and cattle.
The average American eats 273 pounds of meat a year. Give up red meat once a week and you’ll save as much energy as if the only food miles in your diet were the distance to the nearest truck farmer.
If you want to make a statement, ride your bike to the farmer’s market. If you want to reduce greenhouse gases, become a vegetarian.