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Man vs. Local Food… vs. Industrial Food

September 27, 2009

The Challenge: Which tastes better?  Our farmer’s market meal or our supermarket meal?

On the left, our challenger, local food.  On the right, defending this title, is supermarket.

On the left, our challenger, local food. On the right, defending this title, is supermarket.

The Menu:

Farmer’s Market
All-Natural 95% Lean Beef Patties  $8.23/4 patties
All-Natural Beef Bratwurst                 $6.95/4 brats
Zucchini                                                       $0.75
Heirloom Tomatoes                               $2.50
Sweet Potato                                              $2.00
Total                                             $20.43

91% Lean Beef Patties                           $8.99/12 patties
Beef Bratwurst                                          $2.50/5 brats
Zucchini                                                       $0.79
Roma Tomato                                           $0.79
Sweet Potato                                             $1.00
Total                                             $14.07


Farmer’s Market: We woke up early on a Saturday morning in order to make it to the Lawrence Farmer’s Market in time (coffee helped make this possible).  From beef to bell peppers to doggie treats and flowers, the farmers market surprised us with its wide range of products.  We chatted with various farmers to learn about where their produce or meat came from and how it was grown or raised.  What surprised us was that though most farmers used organic methods (no chemicals, pesticides, hormones), very few were certified.  Those who weren’t explained that this was because certification wasn’t worth the money or the bureaucracy.  Furthermore, the intimate setting of the farmer’s market allows conversation between producer and consumer.  Shoppers can go right ahead and ask whether or not the farmer’s products are organic or sustainably grown.

Supermarket: I ran in, threw the ingredients I needed into my basket and checked out.  Quick, easy, and no conversation necessary.


Our friend Blake helped us out by grilling the hamburgers and brats while Austin and I prepared the veggies.  Though the two batches of produce looked a lot alike, there was definitely a significant difference in the meat.  Here’s a video of Blake grilling the burgers to give you a better idea of those differences:

We started off with 5 simple ingredients and it wasn’t long before we made a huge mess of the kitchen.  However, finally we were done grilling, sauteing, and microwaving and sat down to enjoy our feast.

Can you see the difference?  Local on the left, supermarket on the right.

Can you see the difference? Local on the left, supermarket on the right.


Local brats: A
Supermarket brats: B+

Local burgers: A-
Supermarket burgers: B-

There was a significant difference in meat quality.  The local meat had much more flavor (kind of like jerky) and had a thicker texture.  Austin noticed that the supermarket brats were saltier, which we contributed to the preservatives.

Local sweet potato: A-
Supermarket sweet potato: A

Local zucchini: B
Store zucchini: A

What surprised us the most was that the supermarket produce tasted so much better than the local produce.  The super market sweet potatoes were sweeter and had much more flavor.  The supermarket zucchini also had a tangier taste.  Could this be because of all the hybridization that goes with industrial produce?  Hmm…


Though Austin and I had a lot of fun shopping at the farmer’s market and cooking, we felt like the taste didn’t justify the costs.  We would like to incorporate more local food into our diet, but as of right now, with our food budget, it just wouldn’t be financially viable for us to switch over to local food completely.  Still, we loved having the chance to compare the two and most of all, to experience a different way to eat.

Taste alone didn’t justify how much we spent on local food.  What would justify it for you?  What would it take for you to eat locally?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Danny Smyl permalink
    September 27, 2009 6:28 pm

    Although locally grown food is more expensive and perhaps marginally worse in flavor, there ARE benefits to eating home-grown food!

    In many respects, supermarket (Kroger, Great Value, Kirkland) is superior. The calorie/dollar ratio is excellent, the food is more (artificially) colorful, and it probably tastes better.

    With these advantages noted, lets look at the other side. Locally grown or organic has the following properties: no hormones, no pesticides, higher vitamin content, and a more intimate relationship with the local consumer. If you are a health guru, and have the money to drop on local/organic food, there lies a significant health advantage in eating organic/home-grown food. I certainly wish my family had the means for this type of food when I was younger, as my nipples (diagnosed hormone induced Gynecomastia []) can testify to the effects of the hormone and oestregen precursor levels in mass-produced food.

    So, what would it take for me to eat locally grown or organic food? Money to buy it.

    • janiec52 permalink
      September 30, 2009 9:37 am

      When I was at the farmer’s market, I was given a free green striped tomato to try right then and there. Knowing that the produce was organic (no chemical, pesticide, hormones), I popped it in my mouth without a second thought. We get so used to washing and washing produce to get all those chemicals off that we forget how tasty fresh, untainted food can be. Though I would love to enjoy organic food on a daily basis, I agree, the price can really stop you in your tracks. It’s going to take not only consumer support, but changes in food policy to get us on a more sustainable track…and of course, there’s that issue of feeding the 6 billion+ hungry mouths in the world.

  2. September 27, 2009 9:54 pm

    For most of us in the modern world our tastebuds have easily adapted to the foods we often buy because of cost and convenience. Many of the corporations that sell us food in the supermarkets have capitalized on this through genetic engineering (which is just the start), and they have learned that we here in America like our produce sweeter and/or blander than the way the produce has actually tasted for centuries. It’s engineered food, plain and simple. But buying local or organic is in no way simple for most people. Ready access to fresh, and SAFE food is still quite challenging for the large percentage of Americans. It’s a situation that has been perpetuated by corporations (i.e.: primarily Monsanto) and our government. There are people out there fighting to change policies, but it’s an uphill battle that won’t be resolved any time soon.

    As for me…I mix it up too. I try and buy local and/or organic whenever possible, however my health (and the health of my children in the future…whenever that happens), are my primary concern, so I tend to try and buy organic/non-GMO foods before I buy local if cost is a competing factor. There are so many dang factors. Luckily since I live in New Mexico there are some amazing local foods to be had, and I take advantage as often as possible.
    I’ve also gotten in to using a food dehydrator to dry fruits and veggies and for making jerky. I’ve also begun learning how to make fermented/cultured foods at home to save money (butter, yogurt, sauerkraut, ginger beer), and just tonight I made my first batch of home made sausages. It’s quite fun, rewarding, and often much healthier due to the lack of preservatives/chemicals/unknowns.

    I applaud you for giving the local food challenge a shot.

    OH….and you should watch Fathead. It’s a great movie about food that is a rebuttal to Supersize me. It’s full of great info about food and the food industry…and it’s actual facts presented by well-known scientists and researchers. ANd this is an interesting website….
    It’s about primal eating, something I’ve been learning quite a lot about and have been working towards as of late. It’s hard…but not impossible. I’m mostly just focussing on eating foods that our ancestors did. Easier said than done, but it’s totally do-able.

    • janiec52 permalink
      September 30, 2009 9:42 am

      Thanks for all the cool information! I had no idea that there are people out there striving to eat in a more primal way. I will definitely have to look into that a bit.

      I’m very intrigued by your homemade foods. I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle last summer and ever since then I’ve always wanted to learn how to make cheese at home. I think making these goods at home is an art that’s quickly being lost in our industrial world. We become so used to having cheese, yogurt, sausages, and beer at our disposal that we forget how these good were made in the first place.

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