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Desc:skeptoid.com Host lays down some science on this hippy fad.
Category:Educational, Science & Technology
Tags:skepticism, SCIENCE!, critical thinking, skeptoid.com, this is how you do respect
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Comment count is 60
Oscar Wildcat - 2010-10-24
Yet, somehow, when I go to the farmers market here, I get much higer quality produce for about 1/2 the price of the local supermarket. I suspect Mr. Skeptoid is missing the forest through the trees. But hey, if you want expensive tasteless green picked tomatoes shipped from new zealand, be my guest.
BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Funny, I don't remember him saying that you shouldn't buy from the farmer's market if you enjoy that more, or that it's ALWAYS going to be cheaper for you if you go to the farmer's market. His point is that it's not always the environmentally friendly way to go, and you shouldn't confuse ideological preferences for scientific facts.

Also, I'd question whether your knowledge of the provenance of said tomatoes doesn't colour your enjoyment of them. Check out Penn & Teller's Bullshit!: Organic foods to see their organic foods taste test. Turns out that if you think something's going to taste better, it does. Even if the person staging the test is totally lying to you about which is the organic/local food and which is the OMG evil corporate hate-energy laced food.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
*not always going to be cheaper

minimalist - 2010-10-24
Yeah honestly I don't think there's going to be too much of a taste difference as long as you're comparing the same varieties, on the other hand supermarkets tend to use varieties that are specifically bred for certain qualities that aren't necessarily going to include 'taste' as the number one priority.

Case in point: your standard, Chilean supermarket tomatoes are bred for surviving long-distance shipment. So they can survive a whack with a baseball bat but they taste like a mouthful of styrofoam. You can grow it with pesticides or organic techniques, it's still going to taste like shit. At the local farmer's markets, on the other hand, I can get over 2 dozen varieties of heirloom tomato, each distinct enough to suit any taste -- but the vast majority are tons more flavorful than what you can get in a supermarket.

Toenails - 2010-10-24
Vegetables maybe, but you cannot argue that local farm eggs are so much tastier than store-bought ones.

The yolks are much richer, the eggs are (usually) larger, sometimes you get those two-yolks-in-one super eggs, and even though some people avoid them I think a little bit of blood gives omelets a nice punch.

Also, local cuts of meat from small farms are superior in my opinion. A slab of cheap-ass pork sirloin from the store had so much fuckin' fat on it, it took me an extra 20 minutes to prepare because I had to trim all that shit off.

Of course, in Kansas, the best cut of meat is from deer you hit with your car. Kills *and* tenderizes all at the same time!

Caminante Nocturno - 2010-10-24
He made it clear at the end of the video that he had not missed the forest for the trees.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
I could argue that they aren't tastier, Toenails. But I don't have any data to back it up. Maybe try having a blind taste-test with the aid of a friend of yours and see what happens?

And I personally would rather trim the excess fat off of a far cheaper cut of meat than pay an extra a pound. That might be because I used to work in a butchery and it doesn't bother me that much. 20 minutes of my time is worth a pound to me. But that's just me.

CharlesSmith - 2010-10-24
"Facts have been presented which do not align with my behavior! Time to be condescending!"

Oscar Wildcat - 2010-10-24
But the implications are clear. People who shop locally are soft headed hippies that don't understand how wonderful chain distribution and truck farming are.

Well, in the case of the tomatoes here at Haus Wildcat, the provenance is clear. They come from my backyard. And the taste of fresh heirloom tomatoes cannot be beaten, which you will discover if you grow them yourself. Whether I use the compost to feed it or some chemical fertilizer, the taste is the same ( i've done both ). Although a hydroponic tomato is pretty tasteless. Using the chemicals in your soil creates all sorts of problems that make long term use problematic, so I usually don't. Specifically, they fuck up the microorganisms that keep the soil fertile.

But the thing is, you _can't buy_ a good tomato from a chain store to know what I am talking about. As the man points out, "the vegetable has to "tolerate" shipping" and most good ones don't. Go find a Black From Tula or a Brandywine to compare. Just try...

Let me enlighten you as to the real reason to buy locally grown produce. Many of my neighbors here are small farmers. Buying from them means much of the land in my neighborhood remains farmland. This is quite distinct from other places I have lived, where all the land was paved over and converted to minimalls and tract housing ( I'm talking to you NJ ). Again, if you prefer tract houses and traffic in your backyard to pastures, horses, and trees, you are welcome to them.

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
Even within the supermarket, there is a large difference in taste with, say strawberries. Those cow-heart sized ones just taste like soap.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Oscar: As I said, don't confuse an ideological preference for a scientific fact. Sure, you prefer to see farmland? Great. That's an awesome reason to buy local. You prefer to support local farmers? Great, another awesome reason to buy local. It makes you feel good and you think it tastes better? You're still winning the argument for local food on a personal, ideological basis. That doesn't mean that sometimes (sometimes) it's not factually cheaper and 'greener' (whatever that means) to ship the food across the continent/planet to get it to the consumer.

WHO WANTS DESSERT - 2010-10-24
I think enjoying Penn & Teller's Bullshit! is scientific grounds to ignore everything you say, forever.

Oscar Wildcat - 2010-10-24
@ Toenails: Little if any difference in taste on eggs, but it's what you _don't_ get. Salmonella. I like making mayonaise and aioli, and I'd never try that with a chain store egg.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
DESSERT: I think appeals to ridicule are grounds to ignore you, so I guess we're both assholes.

Potrod - 2010-10-24
All the guy said was "Locally grown food is not always the most environmentally friendly way, but feel free to buy it for whatever other reasons you have" as far as I can tell. He's not being judgmental, so I'm not sure why people are getting all defensive about taste or keeping money local.

Also I like the taste of those big strawberries and think people who say they taste like soap are talking out of their ass.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Potrod: It's very hard for people (in general, not saying anything about specific people here) to separate one part of an argument from how they feel about the topic at hand. We tend to be weighted more towards how we feel about something than how it actually adds up factually, which is why the scientific method had to be invented, instead of just being an obvious thing we all do.

For instance, I used to be a 'truther' (albeit a quiet one, I never got to the stage where it seemed like a good idea to talk about it). Most of my willingness to believe conspiracy theories came from feelings of spite and ridicule towards governments in general, and the American government in particular. Then the fear component came in and it became a sort of "I'm really fucking scared of this so it MUST have validity" thing. These are really, really bad reasons for believing in something. Once I realized that, it became a lot easier to take a step back and say "Oh holy fuck, these arguments are bad, and I should feel bad for making them."

Old_Zircon - 2010-10-24
It depends on the actual food a lot. Organic bananas hardly taste like the same food as regular bananas, but leafy greens are indistinguishable.

Old_Zircon - 2010-10-24
Moreover, who actually thinks local farmer's markets are cheaper? Every one I've ever been to is about 30% higher, and that's no surprise to me. If I go there I'm going because I want to get actual fresh vegetables, and I'm OK with paying a premium for that. The only markets I've been to that are cheaper are the major outdoor food markets in Boston and NYC, but there's nothing local or high quality about their products.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2010-10-24
This reminds me of a seeming anomaly in the milk I've been drinking lately. This is anecdotal About a year ago, the supermarket in my neighborhood closed down when the local chain was acquired by a larger regional chain. So I've started going to Aldi Supermarket. For anyone who might not have one nearby, Aldi is a discount chain that sells it's own brands almost exclusively, and so everything is centralized, and the prices are often dramatically lower. Years ago, the food at Aldi's was pretty low quality, but that's since changed dramatically, in my opinion.

I've lived most of my life in Binghamton, New York, and most of the milk I've been drinking for my whole life has come from the Crowley's dairy on Conklin Avenue, on the Southern bank of the Susquehanna, roughly two miles from where I'm typing. I like the fat free stuff, which I've been drinking since my Freshman year in 1986.

The Aldi Milk apparently comes from Batavia, Illinois, like almost everything else they sell. And it seems to get to the store sooner than the Crowley Milk, judging by the expiration dates. (I always read the expiration dates for milk, since even thinking about sour milk has the same effect on me that thinking of vomit has on some other people.) In the past, I've tried to get milk with an expiration date at least one week in the future, Ten days is pretty good.

Well, yesterday, I bought a gallon of milk at Aldi. It was October 23, and the exipiration date is November 10. That's roughly two and a half weeks. I've never seen anything like that with the local milk.

There are all kinds of good reasons for buying local foods, and the farmers markets, while perhaps not the solution to cutting carbon emmisions for the whole world, is a great place to get good fresh produce at a low price. But I've been puzzling over the milk for a while now, and this video may have given me an answer.

John Holmes Motherfucker - 2010-10-24
Don't think that was meant to be a reply. Sorry.

Vicious - 2010-12-24
I fucking hate tomatoes.

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
His distribution argument seems straightforward to quantify, and yet... no figures. And look at the first diagram. Why is every node connected to every other? Are the farmers making house deliveries? It should look like cities look, roughly circular groups centered around small hubs, with a few "highways" connecting each larger group.

He lacks the graph theory chops to do this right.

This is all prior to any discussion of side effects, like the one Oscar mentioned. Here's another: can we draw a links from corn subsidies to HFCS popularity, to higher incidences of obesity, to greater health care spending? I dunno (and won't cut a video pretending that I do) but it's worth asking.
BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Check out his website (www.skeptoid.com) his podcast about this issue has links and sources at the bottom of the text version.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Also, HFCS is really just sugar (50% fructose, 50% glucose)
Can we draw a correlation between the love of sugar and giant, lardy asses? For sure we can. Does getting fat eating too much sugar cause you to put more of a burden on the health care system? Fuckin'-A it does. Does that have anything to do with WHERE the sugar comes from?


Does it?

HFCS is cheaper because of the subsidies, yeah. It's also cheaper because it doesn't need to be imported, and it's easier to use than granulated sugar because it's already in a liquid state prior to manufacturing processes.

Does any of that have anything to do with the fact that people with shitty will-power eat themselves into an early grave because they love sweet things?

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
I agree with the larger point. Everything should be viewed with skepticism. Now that the marketing people added "green" to their dictionaries, we have a situation like diet food where people do feel-good stuff that's either irresponsible or ineffective.

And I understand hub and spoke well enough, and the efficiencies that allows.

But I can't get over the fact that his "before" picture connects every node with roughly every other. Check out what the factorial of 10 is. Is his calculator broken, or is he refusing to submit his theory to the same scrutiny that he uses with other people's?

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
regarding hfcs: http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/

i'm not saying that that's the last word on it, but it's more than just superstition.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Hmm. Interesting, thanks for the link.I will refrain from coming to an uneducated conclusion on this matter, and wait for the science to come in.

My general (personal) rule is to cook most of my own meals from as close to scratch as possible, and avoid eating huge amounts of sweet things regardless of the source. Except for all the sugar I put in my coffee, because I love that shit.

TeenerTot - 2010-10-24
I kinda go with pastor here. As far as I know, my *local* farmer's market is the one (or maybe one of very few) places the *local* farmer will sell his produce.
But what do i know.

Rum Revenge - 2010-10-24
If you do go to a traditional chain grocery, you can still by local foods. It also helps if you stick to seasonal foods. Plus, the UK has, for a long time, relied upon imported foods to sustain its population (ol' Kipling even wrote a poem about it). He also doesn't mention how a local farmer's market can keep your money local, too (how much of your dollar at the Big Box grocer's do you think goes back into your community?)
pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
you're being too generous. as soon as it's in the cash register, it's left your community, and probably your country.

HarrietTubmanPI - 2010-10-24
I'd say quite a bit goes back to the local community:

* Electricity costs - go to local utility boards
* Property taxes - goes to local governments
* Sales taxes - goes to the state
* Wages - goes to local people who spend it locally

If you think of the costs of owning and running a grocery store versus profits, more than you think goes back into the local community.

The only shopping that doesn't usually have a local impact is the one with the smallest footprint - and that's shopping online.

fluffy - 2010-10-24
Unfortunately, a lot of grocery store chains actually aren't set up to handle local farmers.

Personally I buy almost all of my produce at the local Mexican grocers, who get all the leftover stuff from the various distribution channels that were rejected because it wasn't pretty enough for the major markets. There's an amazing amount of perfectly-good food that's just discarded by the traditional grocery system for stupid reasons, and it seems that making better use of these leftovers is also a huge win for the environment.

Also, the stuff I get from the Mexican grocers is usually *fresher* than the stuff at Safeway, and costs about 1/4 as much. But of course the selection is generally limited based on what happened to be available. The staples are almost always there, but a lot of stuff is just more like "hey this is cool, I could do something with that."

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
No offense to you, BorrowedSolution, but he strikes me as more of a defender of the status quo than a skeptic. Again, his argument here is based on a straw man that one literally couldn't pull off without breaking the laws of physics.

His article on the Pacific Trash Vortex follows the same pattern of setting up a straw man ("everyone believes there is a giant solid island of trash in the Pacific") and then debunks it with things like "it's where Hawaii should be" (meanwhile, Hawaii has plastic beaches), but not before misrepresenting a Greenpeace diagram as something that describes such a solid mass (that literally says "transparent soup" on it). I expect that sort of thing from Fox News, but he claims to be the voice of reason. I think that's what TheOtherCapnS is miffed by as well.

Likewise, his article on AGW begins with an actual refusal to read up on the subject, then progresses to canned political views and "South Park"–style false objectivity. He does mention Al Gore a bunch of times, though...

pastorofmuppets - 2010-10-24
Crap, that is supposed to go below TheOtherCapnS's comment.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
From what I've heard him say he purposely responds to the most outlandish claims that people make, and that can make it seem like he's setting up a strawman. Obviously not everybody really believes there's a huge patch of garbage floating in the pacific, but he finds it more enjoyable to address the people who do.
It's sort of what Penn & Teller do, picking on the stupidest looking people around. It may not be that fair and even-handed, but it does draw a lot more attention than just quibbling about minor details with more reasonable people. Penn & Teller: Reasoned Debate Tactics probably wouldn't be so popular.

astropod five - 2010-10-24
he has another video where he says fruit smoothies are worse for you than eating nothing but big macs.
SolRo - 2010-10-25
so he's a jackass that has an idea and then hunts down data that only supports his idea?

Welcome to how Flawed Science works!

takewithfood - 2010-10-24
My grocery store boasts about foods that are "grown close to home", which actually just seems to mean "grown somewhere in this country, probably", which is basically meaningless in Canada.

But I think it's a step in the right direction for people to want to choose green foods. We just need to think in more complex terms than just "grown sorta close by". Unfortunately, the big picture is too complex for the average person to figure out so what we really need is some objective group of experts to sort it out for us, and condense the information down to a level that most people can understand.

And that won't happen until it's profitable to do so, which either means massive public awareness (unlikely) or benevolent government intervention (even more unlikely).
Toenails - 2010-10-24
I just don't see how long-distance distribution is better for the environment for where I live at. Kansas is so land-locked that you usually need all three types of freight to get it to us (ship, then train, then trailer).

Local meats are pretty fucking expensive, I'll give you that. Unless you go in with other people and get it bundled. Then you're just crazy not to shop local.


Still, this guy is saying one aspect of shopping locally is not as good as buying it globally for some people. That's pretty good argument guy, and it has spawned quite a healthy debate on this page. But isn't just saying that it's not environmentally friendly too buy tomatoes grown in the United Kingdom as an argument against shopping local like saying that you are going to vote for a certain candidature because you agree with his views on abortion? Do people really just shop locally only because they believe it's helping the environment? Do people really want a tomato grown in the fucking UK?

But still, stars for the discussion it has caused, the walls-of-text from us wanna-be intellectuals, and the lack of name-calling between people that disagree with each other.
Toenails - 2010-10-24
Also, I probably should point out that a good portion of my local shopping is not really shopping at all... I will either get a lot of eggs, and jerky via the barter system and the cost of fuel (usually when I deliver tractor starters to old farmers and they pay my father for the repair and I get eggs for going out of my way to get it to them). And I get corn, cucumbers, jalapenos, tomatoes, chilly peppers, and other produce for no charge at all. All you need in this case is either a hobbiest with surplus of produce, or a sweet Mexican family next door that will let you pick shit out of their garden any time you want.

Totally tangent on the subject: All the illegal immigrants in the surrounding area have trampolines. What's up with that?

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Yeah, it is nice to disagree without being huge children about it. Since I've learned about the joys of critical thinking I've found it a lot easier to give people the benefit of the doubt and not just go "Bloobloobloo you disagree with me because you're a bad person!!!"

Nobody, and I mean nobody, holds an idea because they think it's a bad idea, or because they think they're intentionally doing harm or being misguided. We all have our different ideologies and that's a testament to the complexity and strength of the human mind, not an indictment of it.

memedumpster - 2010-10-24
I am going to keep my commie hippie notion that if you don't know how to grow food or have access to food grown within non-motor vehicle distance of where you live, you wont survive very much longer on earth.

Then, I'm driving to the grocery store.

phalsebob - 2010-10-24
Look, these are facts. The name of the show is inFact, just so you know straight up that these are, in fact, facts. So we know these are facts right from the start, so lets stop wasting time arguing!
TheOtherCapnS - 2010-10-24
Utter garbage. Aside from the complete lack of solid figures there are serious flaws in his argument.

1: A farmers' market *IS* a central distribution model. It is simply one that sells directly to the consumer. His model has nearly as many markets as farms. That would be vegetable stands; it has nothing to do with an actual farmers' market (note: it's farmers' market not farmer's market).

2: People who are truly and not casually into the green aspect of the local produce scene deal with seasonality. You only eat fresh stuff from your area when it's in season. Other times of year you eat canned food that you bought and canned when it was cheap and in season. No trains or shipping necessary. Obviously this doesn't work in all locations, and no one is saying that large-scale farming doesn't have its place and purpose.

3: I hate this guy's "friendly dome shocking ahoy!" facial expression and his voice. Fuck him.

Strangely, I wouldn't hate this as much if he were actually pushing some agenda, but he's addressing just the issues that suit him and backing them up with figures and models that don't even seem to be related. Five for pissing me off.
BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
You'd rather have an agenda pushed on you? That's interesting. Might I ask why?

TheOtherCapnS - 2010-10-24
I guess because having an agenda pushed on me doesn't really affect me, as I'm capable of critical thought and skepticism on my own. I don't like having an agenda pushed on me, but I prefer it to this nonsense.

This is just some guy being disagreeable because it's in his job title. I'm sure he's produced thoughtful posts in the past, but this is poor work. It doesn't even seem to have a point, he's just politely flailing about going "watch me being skeptical!" I see your post saying he posted research links, but he's cherry picking arguments, ignoring valid lines of thought, and completely missing the mark simply to suit his own ends (just having something to post); these are things of which the worst pseudo-scientists are often guilty.

BorrowedSolution - 2010-10-24
Well, it's easier to provoke debate by going all the way to one extreme than presenting both sides of the argument. I'd say the other side of the argument gets ample presentation in general, so it's not like you only have his word to go on. As you say, there are other lines of thinking on this, and we're all free to have them.

His podcast on this issue is about 10 minutes longer and I seem to remember him doing more to present the other side. His inFact series is more about provoking skeptical inquiry in short dosages than actually doing the comprehensive hours and hours and hours of explanations that would accompany getting any real information about anything across, which A) is just unrealistic and B) would be pretty boring to the layman.

And yeah, he does seem like a bit of a smug prick, but I happen to enjoy that, so nah-nah-nah-nah-boo-boo.

knowless - 2010-10-24
whats going on with his neck?
FeeFiFoFoTheFifeFifeBrown - 2010-10-25
He's so packed full of FACT that his tendons just can't handle it.

Old_Zircon - 2010-10-24
This will all be moot in a decade or two when gasoline costs 00 a gallon and we're all living in tunnels to avoid the quad-rotor drone swarms.
Oscar Wildcat - 2010-10-24
Yeah, but my tunnel is gonna have awesome tasting food, and your tunnel will be stocked with happy meals...

Dread Pirate Roberts - 2010-10-24
Guys: It's about vegetables and fruit. How many of you even eat fucking vegetables anymore? Fresh ones, or did you get them out of your Hungry Man? :P

Don't be mean, don't go green.
baleen - 2010-10-24

I think the strain of nerd on the poe network is of the highest pedigree, sir, and you sir, are a fool.

baleen - 2010-10-24

Consider growing food on your roof.
That's what I'm getting into.
It kicks the farmers' market fad in the nuts.
spikestoyiu - 2010-10-25
Vertical farming looks and sounds awesome.

spikestoyiu - 2010-10-24
While you guys are arguing about smart stuff, I was too busy cracking the fuck up at this guy's voice. Is that a put on or does he really sound like that?

Also, fuck a vegetable. PEACE.
FeeFiFoFoTheFifeFifeBrown - 2010-10-25
Yeah, he be chaody.

FeeFiFoFoTheFifeFifeBrown - 2010-10-25
AHEM, choady.

Pardon me.

pathetique - 2010-10-25
Local doesn't mean not using a distributor!
FeeFiFoFoTheFifeFifeBrown - 2010-10-25
Reasons to buy local food:

a) Food is a huge part of culture. Homogenization of regional cuisines is a fucking tragedy.

b) Meeting and getting to know the people who grow your food? CRAZY. Incentivising their production with your spending? MADNESS.

c) Turns out small local producers actually offer delicious, distinctive stuff your supermarket doesn't stock. Things like heirloom produce, artisan cheeses, beverages both alcoholic and non, etc.
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