No one can dispute that, in North America, we are living at a time of unprecedented access to food. No matter what time of year it is, most residents of Canada and the United States can purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from local grocery stores and supermarkets, and with the rise of grocery delivery, it is even possible to do so without leaving your home.
So why, in this time of abundance, are so many consumers pushing back against industrial agriculture and arguing for a return of local foodways? If you can eat food from any country whenever you want why would you want to embrace something like the Hundred Mile Diet, which circumscribes what you eat based on the seasons?
To answer these questions — and to explain just why supporting local farmers is so important — it is necessary also to understand the costs of industrialized agriculture.
Even as globalization has given us an incredible range of choices when it comes to what we eat, it has also left us increasingly reliant on a handful of large multinational corporations that can exert massive amounts of pressure on consumers and producers alike.
These corporations often care about little more than their financial bottom line, and the result has been a food system that has put small-scale producers out of business even as it threatens the very ecosystems we rely on for ongoing food security.
This is why a growing movement of farmers, cooks, community leaders, and consumers are trying to re-establish a healthier, more people-centred approach to food, one that could change the way Canadians think about food.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why shopping local is so important, while also talking about why we decided to give Canadians the option to order premium meat online from local farmers and producers in their own provinces.
Local Food is Better for Communities
As more and more people become curious about where their food comes from, the question of what “local” food actually is has become significant. If you live in downtown Toronto, an hour’s drive away from the closest farms, what exactly counts as “local” produce and meat?
While there is no industry definition for what counts as “local,” generally speaking, local food can be defined as food that fulfills some or all of the following criteria:
- Was raised within your region (province, territory, etc.)
- Was purchased from local farms or food stands
- Was raised within 100 miles (160 km) of where you live
In addition to these criteria, many experts will also add that in order to be considered truly “local,” food must have been raised on small scale operations rather than large factory farms.
But perhaps most importantly, local food is food that comes from real Canadian communities rather than anonymous agribusinesses. And this is why many people who care about their communities are joining in the push for the locavore approach to food.
Much has been written about the demise of the family farm, once the backbone of communities across rural Canada. Due to the sky-high price of land and the influence of large-scale producers who have an undue influence on the market, it has become harder and harder for small farms to compete and survive.
This has had a devastating effect on Canada’s rural communities, many of which are facing population crises as they lose their young people to the more dynamic economies of the big cities.
Choosing to customize a meat box for delivery filled with products from small farms may not seem like a radical act, but the impact it can have on the livelihoods of farmers who are committed to an artisanal approach to farming — and to the communities they maintain — can be huge.
Local Food is Better for the Environment
It is no secret that the world is facing an environmental crisis of unprecedented scale. As climate changes wreak havoc with weather patterns and deforestation reduces our already depleted ability to pull carbon from the atmosphere, the future of our food security is a live question.
This is one of the most significant reasons many experts are starting to agree that eating local meat products like lean ground beef may not just be preferable — it may soon become necessary.
Food that is produced on an industrial level often follows production paths that seem counterintuitive. Cattle raised in Ontario might be shipped to Quebec to be slaughtered before ending up on a supermarket shelf in Alberta, a journey of thousands of kilometers that significantly adds to the overall carbon footprint of the steak that ends up on your plate at the Medicine Hat municipal barbecue.
Industrial agriculture works on such a massive scale that all this shipping back and forth can actually be the most cost-effective approach — so long as the cost to the environment is not factored in.
The truth is that from a sustainability perspective, one of the easiest ways to move towards a carbon-neutral future is to reduce the extent to which food needs to be shipped around the globe. Buying local can have a huge impact on the environment, and with so many excellent small-scale producers active across Canada, you can easily switch to a diet of local meat no matter where you live.
Consumers seem to be catching on to this, which is why the demand for local produce has grown so significantly over the past decade.
The only challenge has been finding ways of meeting this demand. One of the reasons we started truLOCAL was because we believed that traditional ways of shopping for meat simply weren’t helping the average Canadian shopper find the high quality beef, pork, chicken, and fish there is such a manifest interest in.
If you want the convenience of ordering organic ground beef online but you also want to do your part to build a truly local, truly sustainable, and truly environmental food system here in Canada, ordering a meat box through truLOCAL is the best way to do so.
Local Food is Better for the Economy
We may not know it, but where we spend our money can be just as important as how we spend it. You may be able to get organic produce and farm-fresh meat through large multinational chains like Whole Foods, but you’ll have to negotiate the inevitable mark up that such premiere brands exact — and you can be sure that a significant percentage of every dollar you spend will be sucked out of the local economy.
As we mentioned above, supporting local farms means supporting local communities. But it also means supporting local economies, as most family farmers re-invest a substantial proportion of their revenues back into their operations by purchasing new equipment and new technology.
Most of this will be purchased from other local businesses, which will spur further economic growth. This is not even to mention the fact that farmers are also going to purchase their own food from local shops, buy their vehicles at local dealerships, use the services of local lawyers and doctors, and pay their taxes to local municipalities.
The cumulative effect of this kind of investment should not be underestimated. If Canadians care about the wellbeing of their provinces and territories — and their food security — then they need to take the benefits that come from buying local seriously.
At truLOCAL, we have seen first hand what a difference it makes when Canadian consumers and restaurants support fresh Canadian meat, vegetables, and fruit. Every dollar spent circulates through the community, enriching everyone and guaranteeing a higher general standard of living.
If you buy one of our meat boxes filled with 3 LB packs of ground beef you can be sure that that money is going to local Canadian businesses committed to helping local producers invest in their farms, workers, and communities.
Local Food is Better For You
None of this would matter that much if it weren’t for the fact that, among all these other benefits, local food lacked the nutrition you need to power your life. The health of our bodies is intimately related to the food we use to fuel them, and if we don’t use good fuel, we can’t expect our bodies to function properly.
Probably the most important reason to rely on local producers for your food is that time and time again, a local food diet has been shown to correlate strongly with higher levels of nutrition and better overall health.
In order to understand why this is, however, we first need to understand how the local food movement differs from the industrial models that dominate so much of Canadian food culture.
One of the problems with industrial agriculture is that it tends to lead to more processed foods, and food processing methods tend to have an adverse effect on overall nutrition.
Take bleached white flour: the reason bleached flour became popular was that it was faster to produce and less likely to go bad, making it easier for mills to mass-produce flour quickly and efficiently, and giving it a longer shelf life. But the bleaching process also strips most of the nutrients for flour.
While attempts have been made to re-introduce some of these nutrients, the resulting product is a far cry from the nutritional richness of the original, unbleached flour.
This is also true when it comes to meat. For most of human history, beef cattle were raised on ranges, where they ate a natural diet of grasses in the summer and hay in the winter. But with the rise of industrial agriculture, it was found that cattle could be brought to market faster if they were fed a mixture of grains.
Because grain feed didn’t require extensive ranges, it also meant more cows could be packed into a smaller space, and thus the modern feedlot was born.
Feedlots have had a well-documented negative effect on the quality of life of cows, and the quality of beef they produce. While cattle raised on ranges produce meat that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in calories, feedlot beef is fattier and far less nutritious.
Local farmers committed to sustainable production are far more likely to produce high quality grass fed beef, and even when local farms introduce grain into their cows diets, because cattle are still able to graze, they don’t develop the same health problems that plague industrial farms.
For this reason, when it comes from a local farm, grass-fed beef is a smart choice for people who want to take care of their own health as much as they want to care of their community and the environment.
At truLOCAL, we welcome the fact that consumers have more choice than ever before over the food they will eat. But we also believe that when it comes to meat, you shouldn’t have to choose between variety and nutrition.
That’s why we are committed to giving ordinary Canadians access to the very best local meats through our fresh meat delivery services.
When you subscribe to truLOCAL, you can get a delicious box full of your favourite cuts of beef, pork, chicken from local farms and sustainable fisheries automatically delivered to your house, apartment, or condo every two, three, or four weeks.
We also offer one-off delivery boxes for special occasions, or for customers who don’t want to commit to a regular delivery service.
If you want to support your community, your local economy, sustainable agriculture, and your own healthy diet, start your first truLOCAL order today!