This entry was posted on Friday, January 9th, 2009 at 10:13pm and is filed under Local, Food Safety, Media and information, Meat, Agriculture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer posted a commentary on a food safety laywer’s Top Ten Food Safety Challenges for 2009. Number two on the list of concerns is local food. We’ve posted about “Big food vs. Small Food Safety” here before. Small food isn’t necessarily safer just because it’s locally produced.
The longer I sell at farmer’s markets, the more I am convinced that the accountability I have as a producer who also interacts with the final consumer is both a great asset and great responsibility. My customers trust me to tell them the truth. I have to look them in the eyes directly when they ask about what I mean by “Angus beef” or “Pastured” or “Natural”. I can’t hide behind the USDA label definitions while working loopholes to sell something other than what people think they are getting. I also know my customers will tell me next week or next month if I’ve sold them an unsatisfactory product.
By the same token, because I am a producer-vendor, I find that although my customers want beef that fits the general definition of “natural” (no antibiotics, no hormone implants) they are comfortable purchasing beef from cattle that may have been treated with antibiotics if they were sick, so long as it wasn’t a daily part of their feed ration. Similarly, most of my customers are quite happy with “pastured beef” which receives a small amount of grain supplementation to maintain a minimal growth rate during droughts and tough times rather than being purely grass-fed. Those I’ve asked said that if they were purchasing at a larger store, however, they would purchase only a “no antibiotics” and/or “grass-fed” label just to make sure.
Shortening the food chain CAN be a viable alternative to some of the very complicated, but necessary regulations that safeguard our food supply. I think accountability is a vital part of a viable local food economy.