Help me find out where my food comes from & how it's disposed when living in Europe.
March 31, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time finding information about the agriculture and trash systems & practices in Europe. Basically I'd like to know where my food comes from and how waste is disposed of when living there. When I pick up a piece of produce from Portugal, I want to understand what that means.

When I pick up a piece of produce from Portugal, I want to understand: Is it ecological? Are oranges from Portugal better than other produce? Are they generally transported by truck or air? etc. etc.

I am moving to Paris this year for my husband's job and I would like to read about issues that are important to me. I try to live as green as possible: I compost, I'm a member of the Park Slope Food Coop which I love and adore, I cook, eat organically, I compost, etc. Issues of trash and where my food comes from, food politics, are very important to me. I know a lot about how things work in America, and I'd like to understand the same thing about Europe. Everything I have found is about travel, how tos, and I'm more interested in deeper issues, how the system works. Another example than the one above: I want to know why ingredient quality is so important to Parisians but not organic.

Books, websites, essays, magazine articles, on the environmental system of Europe would all be helpful. I only read English.

Thank you!
posted by scazza to Society & Culture (5 answers total)
 
I want to know why ingredient quality is so important to Parisians but not organic.

Because ingredient quality is much more important than whether it is organic!

A good take on this is provided by David Lebovitz (read the comments too!) He's an ex-chef from Chez Panisse who now lives in Paris.
posted by vacapinta at 11:19 AM on March 31, 2010


The practises for waste management differ a lot within Europe but a good start is probably the European Commission that have information about waste legislations and recommendations from the European Union.

Regarding ecological food and other stuff must carry some kind of mark like the EU Ecolabel. ECOCERT seems to be a French organisation doing something similar. You could probably find others that operates specifically in France and Paris.
posted by furisto at 12:15 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand how tos about how to find organic products. Also, on the ingredient quality comment I'm not looking for an opinion, I'm looking for the history of the issue in France and the various arguments. Yes the French think that everything they do is the best. I find David Liebovitz often difficult to follow, so I stopped reading his blog. I'll check out the link though.

Ecological food is more about the history of the product and not the labeling. For instance in the US local lamb is less ecological than lamb grown in a better climate, flown in from New Zealand or Australia. That's just knowing the product, even though it may be grass fed & local. Just because an ingredient is of great quality does not mean it's better for the environment and me. So, I'd like to know more about what is grown where & when in the EU, what their ecological regulations are in their countries and by their producers.

Thanks for looking!
posted by scazza at 2:55 PM on March 31, 2010


I'm not totally sure what are you looking for. Could you give an example from the US? Where do you find the information you need over there so we can find the equivalent over here?

Meanwhile, these guys are the parisian waste managers.

If you look into Eurostat they've got lots of statistics on food in Europe, including this pdf called from farm to fork.

This article might explain a bit why there isn't an organic craze: the costs of becoming organic in Europe are high and some producers are trying to achieve a middle ground; they might even be more organic than we think. It might be useful for you to compare the requirements for organic certification in the US and Europe:
"In crop production, additional restrictions apply to the use of manure including rates of application and source. There are other farm inputs allowed under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), but prohibited by the EU. In handling, all organic ingredients must be verified as EU Organic. Similarly, there are non-agricultural ingredients and processing aids allowed under the NOP but prohibited by the EU."
posted by lucia__is__dada at 4:09 PM on March 31, 2010


Thanks for trying, I'm sorry it's not a more articulate question (I just wrote a 5 paragraph post that I stupidly lost too). It's easier in the US just being able to eat organic.

I'm not totally sure what are you looking for. Could you give an example from the US? Where do you find the information you need over there so we can find the equivalent over here?

All kinds of media doing green reporting: Slow Food magazine & website, NYTimes (they did a great water series recently), blogs like Treehugger & Evirograffiti, my Coop's newspaper, PlanetGreen on tv, etc.

I'm looking for all this information to create a guide for myself to living sustainably in Europe & Paris. A guide to sustainable living in Europe in English would be great.

Eurostat is either full of broken links or is confusing, unfortunately. The trash link looks good; it looks like municipal compost will be coming to Paris, they already have drop off points. There's this. The David Liebovitz link answered my produce questions.

Since Paris isn't labeled (the UK is great with labeling) mostly, I'm just trying to navigate this non-organic place. For instance, where does the flour used in boulangeries come from? How sustainable are they? What's their pesticide load? An article on that would be great. Boulangeries aren't labeled. In the US I can just go somewhere organic and understand what I'm eating.

It is of course possible that all this is available in French.
posted by scazza at 7:57 AM on April 3, 2010


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