As a country that prides itself on options, we tend to buy what we want and expect the market to provide us with a multitude of choices. Food selections are no different. We plan a meal and seek out those items on our list. Or we select from what is available and plan a meal around those selections. We rarely think about where our choices originated. Some of our purchases may originate here in the United States, while others come from outside our borders. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
A substantial advantage is that products grown and utilized within our borders help to stimulate our national economy. For example, milk produced from cows is collected at the farm and transported to the plant for pasteurization processing. This is usually done in a specific geographic area since milk has a short shelf-life, usually about two weeks. It is tested for antibiotics and then pumped into the plants holding tanks where it will be processed in 24 to 72 hours of arrival. It is kept below 45 degrees from the time it enters the truck until it is processed. After processing, it is then packaged in cartons or plastic containers for shipment to the store in refrigerated trucks. Because milk should be kept refrigerated, shipping is not advisable over very long distances, such as other countries. (Milk Processing, 2007)
A disadvantage of a global market is that outside the borders of the United States, developing countries may develop crops that pertain to forward thinking technology, like sugar in Brazil in response to the demand for ethanol, lending themselves to a limited variety of crops. (Dean, 2007) This tends to materialize in ways that undermine the potential growth of the underdeveloped country, leading to vast clearing of land for development of crops or singularization of crop variety. This can contribute to a surplus of one or more crops leading to unstable prices in the international market.
Another negative impact of the global market is the rampant tendency toward obesity due to food preservation needed to transport over long distances. In order to transport across country borders, fruits and vegetables need to be harvested before they are ripe and processed in order to preserve them from spoilage. Some of the ways in which this is managed is by using waxes, gases and chemicals, such as fungicides and sprout inhibitors. (Dean, 2007) Some of these processes help the fruits and vegetables ripen more slowly so that they make it to the supermarket and thus your table. However, these processes also, due to the fact that to work, that same produce must be picked well before they are ready for consumption, introducing substances into the body that promote obesity. So those foods that should be naturally good for us, may be contaminated with elements that are just the opposite of what we are looking for in our diets.
Vitamin content is also lost during long transport periods. Fruits and vegetables tend to increase in nutritional value the longer they stay on the vine, ripening naturally. When foods are harvested prematurely, they cease to gain their full potential from a nutritional standpoint and shipping is usually done in refrigerated containers to slow the ripening process. These cooler temperatures add to lower vitamin content. Once they reach our supermarket, they are placed under fluorescent lighting, which, once again, saps the vitamin content we come to expect. So we end up eating an apple or lettuce in our salad that has half or less of the nutritional value we might expect if we had grown the item ourselves or picked it up at our local farmers market. (Dean, 2007)
If we were to shop locally for more of our produce, we are likely to see several benefits. First, we would be receiving a higher nutritional value. The decreased time from land to table in a local market would mean that harvest to market is a difference of a few days, rather than a few...