First-World food fetishes such as locavorism (eating only locally produced foods) and organics are positively terrible for the world’s poorest people. If you want to do the right thing, become a globally conscious grocery buyer, says Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development:
- It is twice as energy efficient for people in Britain to eat dairy products from New Zealand than from domestic producers.
- It is four times more energy efficient for them to eat lamb shipped from the other side of the world than it is to eat British lamb.
The reason: transporting the final product accounts for only a small part of the energy consumed in the production and delivery of food, and it’s far better to eat foods from places where production itself is more efficient. For example, New Zealand cattle eat clover from the fields while British livestock tend to rely on feed — which itself is often imported.
There are still as many as 1 billion people worldwide who are malnourished; and many are living on around a dollar a day. The best way to help poor people eat well is to make healthy food cost less. But the more agricultural land we divert into lower-efficiency organic production, the higher the price of all food will climb.