Eco-novice reflects on the cost of buying local.
About a week ago, a friend of mine was driving up to Sonoma County for a camping trip with his kids. As part of the drive, my friend planned to stop at his favorite honey operation to stock up on honey at wholesale prices. I had recently tried and enjoyed this local honey through my CSA and asked him to pick some jars of honey up for me too.
Now even though I was getting this raw locally-produced honey at a great price (far below retail value), it was still significantly pricier than the jugs of pasteurized honey I buy at Costco, and I deliberated quite a while about just how much of this premium honey I wanted to buy. I use honey for my whole wheat bread, whole grain healthy "cookies," whole grain pancakes, granola, and drizzled over yogurt (among other things), so we go through a fair amount of honey at my house. Although I haven't researched the subject too much, I do believe there are benefits (in addition to flavor -- raw honey is delicious!) to consuming raw honey that are lost during the pasteurization process, so I decided to order enough raw local honey to use for all of our non-baking needs for about a year. I chatted with an employee at the local honey business for a while, and she agreed that many of the benefits would probably be lost for longer periods of baking in an oven.
I wrote my check and collected my honey. And I was feeling pretty good about my decision. I had supported a local business by buying a locally produced food, in glass jars no less. But I was still planning on using some big brand honey since I just couldn't quite justify the higher sticker price for unpasteurized honey that would be baked for 20-45 minutes anyway.
Then I read this article about "honey laundering" in Food News (brought to my attention by a post on The Green Phone Booth facebook page):
Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves: FDA has the laws needed to keep adulterated honey off store shelves but does little, honey industry says.
- If you buy processed foods, you don't really know where the ingredients of your food are coming from.
- There is a lot going on in the food industry that we are not aware of.
- Because of global food markets, the industrialization of food production, and inadequate food regulation, the relationship between food producer and food consumer is largely a matter of trust.
- Therefore, buy local from small businesses whenever possible.