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Food Movement Escalates As Traditional Environmentalism Stalls

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A new wave of consumers, focusing on locally grown foods produced by small, family-owned farmers and ranchers, replaces the traditional environmental movement.

Food should taste better. That’s the drive behind the new foodie takeover, a food movement revolution where consumers are seeking locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables and meats produced by small, family-owned ranches, and specialty seasonings, herbs and cheeses found in main street shops. What was once seen as extravagance is now being viewed as a necessity.

Consumers want a higher quality product. Are we ready to give it to them?

Jay Richards, blogger for the American Enterprise Institute, writes, “Food finickiness is a luxury, not a mandate. Most people couldn’t indulge it even if they wanted to. In recent years, however, the locavore, foodie lifestyle has transmogrified from what it obviously is – a luxury – into a quasi-spiritual ideology resembling late-stage environmentalism.”

Bryan Walsh, TIME magazine writer, adds, “Even as traditional environmentalism struggles, another movement is rising in its place, aligning consumers, producers, the media and even politicians. It’s the food movement, and if it continues to grow it may be able to create just the sort of political and social transformation that environmentalists have failed to achieve in recent years. That would mean not only changing the way Americans eat and the way they farm – away from industrialized, cheap calories and toward more organic, small-scale production, with plenty of fruits and vegetables – but also altering the way we work and relate to one another. To its most ardent adherents, the food movement isn’t just about reform – it’s about revolution. Why has the food movement sprouted so rapidly, even as traditional environmentalism has stalled? Simple: it’s about pleasure. Before the political games, before worries about dead zones and manure lagoons, before concerns about obesity and trans fat, the food movement arose around a simple principle: food should taste better.”

However, Richards acknowledges that this desire for higher-quality food may be a difficult task to deliver to the masses.

“The truth is, if we abandoned industrialized farming and everyone adopted the locavore lifestyle, the human race would be much poorer, and several billion people wouldn’t have food. Unfortunately, the locavore ideology is spreading a lot faster than economic common sense. I suspect Walsh is right about one thing: we should expect to see more and more environmental causes packaged in foodie form, if only because everyone would like to believe that indulging in expensive luxuries can somehow save the planet.”

Whether you feed thousands of steers in your feedlot or run a dozen cows on your acreage, it doesn’t matter. Each and every one of us in the beef business should always focus on producing a quality product. That means following Beef Quality Assurance protocols and keeping the retail product in mind every day.  

We must continue to be alert on consumer demands, and right now, the foodie movement wants a story behind their beef. It’s up to us to dish up our own stories right alongside that juicy T-bone. What’s your beef production story?

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Mar 27, 2012

We've moved from auctioning our beef to direct marketing - to locavores. Of course, people in this neck of the woods have been doing this since before it got popular. However, I now have people willing to drive a couple of hours to pick up their beef, which is different from our neighbors, friends, and family. And they find us by website now, not by word of mouth.

What RIchards and Walsh don't cover is that this isn't "food for the masses". It's a select small percentage of the population which have a larger portion of their disposable income available to spend on higher-quality food. The larger producers and processors still will handle the majority of the food supply.

And our national food producers, both local and national in scope, are diverse enough to fill all the particular needs which arise. Just like we always have.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Mar 30, 2012

It's really interesting how some folks try to turn eating local into some kind of elitist thing. I'm not rich and I can afford to eat local, and I work with a rural poor community who are trying to build up a local food system too. What's so elitist about buying tomatoes or chickens from your neighbors? It's not like they can afford the cost of supermarket beef now anyway.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 4, 2012

Mr. Richards seems to think that this "foodie movement" is somehow a new, revolutionary idea. Historically speaking, that's just plain false. Industrial agriculture, in reality, is the historical anomaly in terms of food production. Prior to the 1940s, local food (with sustainable production practices) was the norm, as it had been for centuries before that. It is only very recently that we have these things called supermarkets. Furthermore, a statement such as , "the human race would be much poorer, and several billion people wouldn’t have food" is both inaccurate and disrespectful. I'd like to know how he defines rich and poor, poverty and success...because improved social, economic, and environmental health (all as a result of local, sustainable agriculture) sure doesn't sound like "a poorer race" to me. Finally, smaller farms are actually more productive and diverse per acre than industrial, monoculture farms. When factoring in all the opportunity costs of food production, including transportation, processing, soil and water quality, social health, and a host of other factors, local food is clearly the more productive option.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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Amanda Radke

A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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