Food Purchasing Priorities
When purchasing food for locavore eating, here are the priorities I use:
- Get organic locally grown food, preferably sustainably produced.
- If that’s not available, get locally produced food (not organic) and let the producer know I’d prefer organic.
- If that’s not an option either, can I make it myself with local ingredients (for example, cream cheese from local yogurt)? For me to make something myself, it has to be practical to do so. If the time required is too long or the process is too complicated, it’s not a reasonable option for me.
- Next, I look for a locally produced substitute (for example, sorrel instead of lemon juice, or clarified butter instead of olive oil).
- If all that fails, I try to do without the ingredient.
- If I can’t find it, make it, substitute for it, or do without it, I look for a local producer who uses regional ingredients (for example, Bellingham Pasta uses local ingredients and ingredients from as close to home as possible). I call these transitional foods, since I will always be looking for a local alternative until I eventually find one.
- Can I make it with mostly local ingredients with one or two transitional ingredients?
- Finally, if I really love a particular food to the point where I’m simply not willing to let it go from my ingredient list (even though I’ve tried), and I can’t find any of the above alternatives, I make it an Exception. Most locavore definitions allow for 3-5 exceptions. When a food is added to my exception list, I try to make my purchase to maximize terroir–a French term which denotes the special characteristics contributed by the geography where a food is produced. The term originally was applied to wine, where growing the same variety of grapes in different soils and locations produces changes in the flavor. In other words, I try to buy the food from a region known for excellence in its production. I also try to buy from organic, sustainable family farms or fair trade businesses in those regions, if possible.
Using this sequence of priorities encourages local, organic, sustainable food production that will improve the taste and nutritional values of our food and reduce our overall carbon footprint.