The concept is pretty simple: to know from whence your food came. Was that tomato grown domestically, or imported? How was it grown? Where did my steak originate? Was the cow treated humanely, or injected with heavy amounts of antibiotics and kept in poor living conditions?
These and a myriad of other questions can be answered quite easily today as more and more organic producers bring their products to market under the “Certified Organic” label, for which the United States Food and Drug Association has set strict regulations.
Why is Food with and Address important?
Well, in today’s global economy, we have become spoiled into thinking that almost every type of food is grown just for us, year round. In truth, foods are shipped around the globe in mass quantities to those nations that can afford to buy them. These foods are grown in conditions that we know nothing about and that fall far outside the regulatory controls of the FDA.
The government does not inspect every grape cluster shipped in from South America, nor every bottle of apple juice shipped in from China. While all these products may well be safe, the pollution caused by their shipping is essentially harmful to us all.
Many of the more than 13,000 organic producers in the United States discuss exactly how they grow or raise the foods they sell on their websites and it’s important to do your research.
The ability to trace any item you consume back to its source is very important today. We must, for example, be able to track foods we have consumed when illness occurs. Recent cases where vegetables have caused salmonella or other illnesses were difficult to trace by regulators because of the huge bureaucracy in the food industry. Commercially grown foods pass from farms to shippers to brokers to wholesale markets to distributors to large retailers and eventually to your local supermarket – and that’s the shortened version of the odyssey.
Buying foods grown locally or regionally from farmers or at farmer’s markets affords direct communication with the supplier and grower.
The Local Food Movement
Local food (also regional food or food patriotism) or the local food movement is a “collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies – one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place” and is considered to be a part of the broader sustainability movement. It is part of the concept of local purchasing and local economies, a preference to buy locally produced goods and services. Those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food sometimes call themselves locavores or localvores. (Source: Wikipedia)
The local food movement seeks to create an audience of consumers who, for environmental or economic reasons, buy their entire food pantry from sources within 10o, or in some cases, 150 miles, with little or no notion of the actual, specific conditions under which the food item was produced, grown or raised.
What’s the Difference?
The local food movement, which we respect and admire is an economic consideration, supporting local and regional agricultural development, with environmental factors secondary to others. Food with an Address considers not only the location of the food’s origins, but the quality by which it was grown as a critically important factor. Moreover, Food with an Address also looks at traceability, which the local food movement really doesn’t consider.
Food with an Address seeks to identify every possible aspect of the food we consume. If we buy a cheese, not only should we know where the cheese was produced, but how the cows, sheep, goats or other creatures producing the milk were raised and treated, as well as the sanitary conditions under which they live, and how the cheese was treated. We should literally be able to write a short story about the cheese before we’ve even taken our first bite.
It’s far more important than merely being able to track a source in the even we take ill. Rather, it’s a matter of preventing ourselves from becoming ill to begin with, and ensuring the quality of the foods we consume. While some critics have suggested that Food with an Address is just an organic food movement or prompted by the same economic considerations as the local food movement, the simple truth is that Food with an Address was motivated by the ability to trace foods which cause allergic reactions.
In Europe, particularly in the suburban and rural areas, restaurants and markets can identify every product they sell, back to the source, and provide a consumer with a detailed history of that product. Very few locally sold foods in the United States are well known even to those selling them.
It was on such a trip that this movement was born – in the Farmer’s Market of Usk, in Monmouthshire, in Wales. In 2004, a visit to this twice monthly market, held in what appears to be a school hall, prompted the realization that each of these small, local producers could not only sell locally grown or made products, but also describe every aspect of the product and any source information. From breads and hot cross buns made from locally grown wheat flour to twenty-seven varieties of ciders made from a variety of apples, each one creating a unique cider; the Food with an Address concept was born.
Dinner at The Walnut Tree Inn, not far away in nearby Abergavenney proved that the concept can work, even in the commercial restaurant. Their menu was full of tidbits of information important to this movement. Many of the key ingredients were detailed, right down to the farm. While there, we took the opportunity to visit a few of these farms and discovered just where our food was produced. To say the least, it was an enlightening, and wonderfully sobering experience to know that the steak enjoyed the night before came from a select herd of Angus cattle raised in clean conditions and fed good, natural foods, with no antibiotics used.
Today, commercial growers are even considering nanotechnology in our foods. Britain has already banned them, but they are possible in the United States, pending a decision by the FDA to include them in organic food regulations. Nanotechnology? Star Trek in my soup? No, thanks.
Join the movement by simply doing your own homework and discovering not only where your food came from, but how it was made, and please, spread the word.