This week, we will be celebrating the holiday of Thanks-giving, a time to come together with family and friends and express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. The observance of Thanks-giving commemorates the harvest festival and the holiday is centered on a meal that typically includes seasonal dishes.
In this day and age, you can get whatever food you want whenever you want it. If you’re craving a peach in the middle of a northeastern February, you can likely find one in the supermarket shipped from China or Georgia. In our ever-globalizing world, the produce section of a typical grocery store does not vary much from season to season. However, being able to eat a peach in February, while convenient, is not necessarily great for the environment or even for you as a consumer looking for the highest quality at the lowest cost.
Food Miles – The shipment of food around the world uses a lot of energy and therefore, accounts for a great deal of carbon emissions. For instance, the hypothetical peach you crave from China has likely traveled approximately 6,926 miles, which would produce approximately 2,493 kg of carbon dioxide. While that may seem like an extreme, American food travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table. “Food miles,” are among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Additionally, keeping produce fresh and cold requires the energy intensive processes of refrigeration and packaging.
Question of Quality – When food is being transported a long distance, it needs to be harvested early so that it doesn’t rot on the journey. Generally, harvesting produce early effects the development of nutrients and taste. Have you ever eaten a tomato in the winter and found it to be pale and flavorless? When you eat in season, you’re more likely to enjoy fresher, more delicious produce.
Easy on the Wallet – If you have ever tried to buy raspberries in the dead of winter, you may have experienced some sticker shock. This is because when you buy a food item out of season, you’re covering the cost of travel and storage – these expenses can add up.
While eating in season is thought by many to be a recent trend among “foodies,” 12th century Jewish philosopher, Maimonides recommends in the Mishneh Torah, “in regard to cold climates and hot climates, [choose the food] appropriate to each and every one of them” (4:8). Each Thanksgiving, we heed these wise words and nosh on traditional American harvest foods. Let this Thanksgiving also remind us of the benefits of eating seasonally all year round, for our health, our livelihood and our environment.
Picture Courtesy of Cuesa.org