Animal, vegetable, mineral
Auntie Ruth shops local whenever possible, but it’s not always easy to do. Consider fish, for example. Now that commercial and sport salmon fishing has been curtailed in California for the second year in a row, truly shopping local for salmon has become virtually impossible. Moreover, prices for wild salmon caught in the Gulf of Alaska and shipped to Sacramento currently exceed $20 per pound. Farm-raised salmon offers a far cheaper alternative, but it comes at a price: Scientific studies have found dioxidelike polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in farmed-raised salmon in levels up to 16 times the amount found in wild salmon. Fortunately, organic salmon from Scotland—which must meet the European Union’s stricter organic standards—offers a more affordable alternative that’s just as healthy as wild salmon. Ask for it in finer local grocery and specialty stores.
Of course, you can’t get much more unlocal than Scotland. Surely it must be easier to shop for locally grown fruits and vegetables. Yet as the Natural Resources Defense Council points out, the average piece of produce in your supermarket travels 1,500 miles to its final destination. The council’s Web site at www.nrdc.org features a handy chart to determine what’s grown in your area any time of the year. However, just because, say, asparagus is in season now, that doesn’t mean the asparagus at your local grocery came from here. The best way to ensure your produce is grown locally is to shop at a farmers’ market or join a community-supported agriculture project. A comprehensive guide to all the farmers’ markets in Sacramento can be found at www.california-grown.com. For more information on CSAs, including ratings for the CSAs in the Sacramento area, go to www.ecovian.com/s/sacramento/csa-food-delivery.
Concluding the animal-vegetable-mineral theme, all the talk about the salmon fishery closing again got Auntie thinking about a story that appeared several years ago in SN&R (“Mercury rising” by R.V. Scheide; SN&R Feature; September 13, 2001). In the story, UC Davis aquatic ecologist Darrell Slotton estimated that during the gold rush era, as much as 20 million pounds of elemental mercury was dumped into the Northern California watershed. It’s still in there, slowly working its way up the food chain. We’ve learned a lot since then, but we still have a long way to go.