Megan McArdle had a really nice piece on Bloomberg late last week titled "Dining out on empty virtue." Here's a snippet:
"An exhaustive investigation by a Tampa Bay Times food critic reveals just how little of the food advertised as organic, locally sourced, non-GMO fare actually fits that description….Consumers don’t really want to buy farm-to-table food. What they want to buy is the moral satisfaction of farm-to-table food….yes, those restaurateurs are cheating their customers out of something, but it’s hard to say exactly what. People walked out of those meals happier than they would have been if they’d been told they were eating regular food. Forcing restaurants to be more honest about their provenance might help some small farmers at the margin, but since Americans don’t really seem to be willing to pay a lot extra for local sourcing, it’s hard to say how many. Meanwhile, more honest menu labeling would deprive diners of an artificial, but nonetheless pleasant-tasting, feeling of virtue."
But, of course, even if all of these restaurateurs were perfectly honest, and consumers were willing to fork over whatever the cost I would still question the integrity of this...if virtuous eating is really the goal. After all, is there any evidence that they are really getting much bang for their buck when it comes to a lower carbon footprint or reduced chemical inputs? GMO free is among the worst offenders when it comes to this. And modern food supply chains, made possible by companies such as Cargill, ADM, and retailers like Wal-Mart, have not only allowed us to get foods cheaper than we can produce ourselves or source locally, but may have also helped to reduce our impact on the environment.
The Oregon GMO Ban-Who is Harming Who?
The Economics of Local Food