In food as in everything, there are few simple answers. Everybody wants some heuristics to help them determine what’s good and in the food world, people look for terms like “organic” or “artisinal” or “local” and generally assume them to be shorthand for, “The person who produced this really cared about how it tastes.”
Heath at Wooly Pigs shoots down that kind of laziness with vigor. First, a little background. Wooly Pigs is a small farm in Washington state that is the only producer of Mangalitsa pigs in the United States. Mangalitsa pigs originate in Hungary, and are much closer in lineage to wild boars than any other domesticated pig. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of farmer who benefits from people with fat wallets looking for easy heuristics to help them pick which food to eat.
I’ve been fascinated by his blog since I first read about it, as it provides a hands on look at the trials and tribulations of a businessman trying to start a new business in a particularly risky industry. Plus, I really like pork, and his goal is to produce the best pork in the world. What’s not to like?
Anyway, he attacks the current local food fetish from a number of angles, including animal welfare, quality of product, and environmental impact. His argument isn’t that small producers are always better or distant producers are always better, but rather that there are no easy way to guess which food producers are really producing quality products in an environmentally sustainable way. Definitely worth reading if you care about what you eat. And if you don’t care about what you eat, there’s something wrong with you.
Update: Heath posted an update of the post I’m discussing, clarifying his thinking on the topic.