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How Local Is Your Food?

How Local Is Your Food?

People who are concerned about how many miles their food travels to get to their tables may be interested in Strolling of the Heifers' 2013 Locavore Index, which ranks all 50 states plus the District of Columbia on how "local" their agriculture is.

Which state tops the list? Vermont, which, coincidentally, is where the organization is based. Maine came in second, Oregon in seventh, and California came in 42nd, right behind Mississippi. That's a surprising result in a state that's home to the Central Valley, which noted The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman called "our greatest food resource."

How could this be? Well, it doesn't take a degree in statistics to follow the methodology, at least. Strolling of the Heifers culled data on state population and the number of farmers' markets, community-supported agricultures (CSAs), and food hubs from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, USDA, and LocalHarvest. These were then combined into a weighted score that placed 45 percent weight on farmers' markets, equal weight on CSAs, and the remaining 10 percent on food hubs. To account for differences in state populations, these were then converted into a score per 100,000 people.

Vermont, with its relatively small population — just more than 600,000 — and relatively large number of farmers' markets and CSAs per capita, breezed past all the other states for the index's second year running.

To see how your state fared, see the results below (numbers in parentheses are rankings from the year prior):

  1. Vermont (1)
  2. Maine (4)
  3. New Hampshire (13)
  4. North Dakota (7)
  5. Iowa (2)
  6. Montana (3)
  7. Oregon (14)
  8. Wyoming (9)
  9. Wisconsin (15)
  10. Idaho (10)
  11. Rhode Island (24)
  12. Massachusetts (28)
  13. Hawaii (5)
  14. South Dakota (8)
  15. Connecticut (29)
  16. Minnesota (17)
  17. Alaska (27)
  18. Kentucky (6)
  19. Colorado (31)
  20. Nebraska (12)
  21. Washington (22)
  22. Michigan (25)
  23. West Virginia (11)
  24. District of Columbia (not ranked)
  25. New York (42)
  26. Kansas (19)
  27. New Mexico (16)
  28. Virginia (34)
  29. Maryland (39)
  30. Delaware (45)
  31. North Carolina (32)
  32. Pennsylvania (38)
  33. Indiana (30)
  34. Missouri (18)
  35. Alabama (26)
  36. Ohio (35)
  37. South Carolina (33)
  38. Arkansas (21)
  39. Illinois (40)
  40. Tennessee (36)
  41. Mississippi (23)
  42. California (41)
  43. Georgia (44)
  44. Utah (37)
  45. Oklahoma (20)
  46. New Jersey (48)
  47. Nevada (47)
  48. Arizona (49)
  49. Louisiana (46)
  50. Florida (50)
  51. Texas (43)

Click here to see the data set from the study

Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.


10 Homemade Cat Food Recipes (Vet Approved)

Creating your own cat food is a sure way to know the exact ingredients of your cat’s food. Learning which foods are the most beneficial for their carnivore diet as well as supplementing any vitamins they may need is the key to a happy, healthy, and long life for your feline. Whether you are new to preparing cat food or are a seasoned vet – these simple yet effective recipes cater to the various needs (and wants) of most cats! Among these 10 feline favorites, there are 5 raw cat food recipes as well as 5 cooked cat food recipes. Learning how to make cat food is simpler than ever! Be sure to look for any diet restrictions these recipes may have if your feline has sensitivities, kidney disease, or requires special senior food!


Why is local food so important?

Taste and nutrition

Two of the most important aspects of eating local food are improved taste and nutrition. Food grown locally typically tastes better, as it’s eaten soon after harvest. Local food is allowed to ripen on the plants and in the fields without additional chemical aid. (Compare the taste of a just-picked, dark-red garden tomato in August with a pink January one and you’ll be amazed at the difference!)

Moreover, local food is harvested at the peak of the season, making it more nutritious. While someone may be expecting a wallop of vitamin C after eating an orange, that doesn’t always hold true. When a piece of fruit is harvested out of season and then shipped over many miles, the nutrient content deteriorates. Buying locally not only provides better tasting and more nutritious food, but allows individuals to enjoy seasonal food diversity.

Local economy

Supporting local businesses can enhance the local economy. When we buy food from sources outside of our region, we don’t support our local economy, we become dependent upon shipping methods that cover lengthy distances, and we don’t have as much control over what we purchase.

Food purchased at a standard grocery store can provide as little as 3.5 cents of every food dollar to the farmer. The rest of the money goes to food processors, suppliers and marketers.

Eating local helps to keep small farmers alive and provides more options to the consumer. The number of U.S. farms continued to fall in 2007 but the average size of them grew.

Environmental impact

Exporting and importing foods is becoming commonplace and this takes more energy. The average food item travels 1200 – 2480 miles in the U.S. before it reaches the kitchen table. While the specific number of miles a food travels has been debated by some, it doesn’t take much investigation to establish where a food was grown. If you live in Wisconsin and buy apples grown in New Zealand, your food has traveled thousands of miles. If you live in Toronto and buy tomatoes and avocados from Mexico, your food traveled a long way. If you buy a mango from Ecuador and you live in Ecuador, you’re a local food stud.

Food production depends heavily on energy and oil for its production, processing, packaging, and distribution. The cost and availability of oil either directly or indirectly affects all food system inputs, including other forms of energy.

Food safety

Food safety is an often overlooked aspect of local eating. When we buy food from local sources, the opportunity for contamination is diminished. Food contamination often occurs on massive industrialized farms that have livestock nearby. With controlled farming systems and a reduction in the number of “hands” touching food, the potential of food-borne illness is minimized.

In addition, food safety regulations and enforcement may not be as stringent in the region of origin as they are where you live.

When buying directly from local farms you can ask about production methods. A close interaction between producer and consumer also means that producers feel more responsibility to the people they feed.


A Balanced Canine Diet

Take a glance at any dry kibble product and you'll see a long list of ingredients. It may seem like creating dog food is a complicated process. In reality, it's relatively simple. There are three main nutrients that your dog needs to stay healthy. These include proteins, fiber, and carbohydrates.

Protein

Protein is, by far, the single most important nutrient to your dog. Canines need protein to develop their muscles and keep their organs in check. Typically, adult dogs do very well with a diet that's made up of about 18 percent protein.

Puppies, on the other hand, are still growing. They need as much as 25 percent protein in their meals.

It's not an exact science. Your dog's biological needs will change based on their age and activity levels. Furthermore, certain athletic breeds require significantly more protein in their diet.

You'll need to keep track of your dog's health and make adjustments accordingly. It's also a good idea to speak with your vet to get a better idea of how much your pooch needs.

Fiber

Dietary fiber is essential for overall gastrointestinal health. While dogs don't get energy from fiber it can help in other areas. A healthy dose of fiber can keep your dog regular, prevent constipation, and help avoid any unnecessary weight gain.

The great thing about fiber is that it's found in a wide range of ingredients. The most common source of fiber is fruits and vegetables. Oftentimes, owners create fiber-rich diets while also introducing essential vitamins and minerals.

Overall, fiber should make up less than 10 percent of the entire recipe.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are going to one of your dog's main sources of energy. They are broken down and absorbed by your dog's gastrointestinal tract to create energy. Figuring out how many carbs your dog should be consuming is tough.

There is no agreed-upon percentage or figure to model recipes after. Some believe that dogs need a lot of carbs while others feel that consumption should be limited.

With that being said, there is one thing that all veterinarians agree on, and that's the types of carbohydrates you provide. There are two types of carbohydrates. These include simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple carbohydrates should be avoided because they are absorbed by the body quickly. This leads to spikes in energy and an eventual crash.

Complex carbs are absorbed slowly, providing your pooch with a more steady energy supply. You can find complex carbs in ingredients like sweet potatoes, beans, oats, and more.


Local Foods Preserve Green Space and Farmland

The environmental question of where your food comes from is bigger than its carbon footprint. By buying foods grown and raised close to where you live, you help maintain farmland and green space in your area.


Food Preservation Methods

1. Drying

If you are new to the world of food preservation, this might be a great place to start. You’ll need a food dehydrator and that is about it.

As you can tell, this method is pretty basic. You just lay the food in the dehydrator and wait until it is completely dried.

If you are interested in drying your own food try these recipes:

– Dehydrated Blueberries

If you like blueberry pie, then you’ll be interested in dehydrating blueberries. It is a super simple way to store them so they don’t go bad.

Plus, you can store them easier too. All you have to do is follow this recipe to get the berries thoroughly dehydrated, then store them in a mason jar with a screwtop lid. It is that simple.

– Sundried Tomatoes

Would you love to have fresh made sundried tomatoes? If so, then you need to give this recipe a glance. It shows you how to take fresh tomatoes and turn them into sundried all with the help of a dehydrator.

Imagine all of the delicious recipes you can easily create with these tomatoes you sundried fresh at home. The savings will add up quickly with this one.

– Dehydrated Marshmallows

At first glance, you might be thinking, “What?” However, hear me out before you scroll right on by this recipe.

If you enjoy marshmallows in your cereal, then you can dehydrate marshmallows and add them to your own homemade cereal anytime you like.

2. Jugging

Jugging is an older method of food preservation. It lost popularity during the 20 th century. However, just for knowledge’s sake, jugging is when a person hunts for game.

Then they bring that animal or fish home and place it in an earthenware pot or casserole dish. Then they cover the meat in gravy, broth, or even the animal’s own blood. Finally, the dish is sealed.

Now, it doesn’t seem that this would be a long-term way of keeping your food, but it would buy you some time if you couldn’t eat the whole animal in one sitting.

I apologize that there are no recipes to share with this type of food preservation. It is one that is outdated and rarely (if ever) in use anymore.

3. Jellying

Making jelly may not seem like a way of preserving anything, but from a woman that makes jellies practically every year, I assure you it is definitely a method of food preservation.

The next time you are overrun in fruits or veggies, don’t panic. Instead, make a delicious jelly out of it that you and your family will enjoy for months to come.

Here are some recipes to help you get started with making jellies:

– Watermelon Jelly

The biggest difference between jams and jellies is that jam leaves seeds in the mixture while jelly works very diligently to remove the seeds.

You can leave this recipe as a jam or make it into more of a jelly. Either way, if you are overrun with watermelon this summer, you can make this creation.

– Blackberry Jelly

Blackberry jelly is a recipe I love to make. My mother-in-law and I made it together for a lot of years.

Now I make it out of tradition if nothing else. Keep this recipe in mind this summer when the blackberries are ready to come off of the vine, and you’ve made all of the pie fillings you can stand.

4. Sugar

You might be wondering how sugar can help preserve food as one of the food preservation methods. It actually can and does a great job at it. If you have foods like fruit rinds that you’d like to save as a sweet treat for later, you can preserve them by dipping them in large amounts of sugar and cooking them to the point of crystallization.

Then the foods can be stored dry. Other cultures will actually dip fruit in honey and store it that way to get a longer shelf life out of it. You use these methods at your own risk, though. Keep that in mind.

5. Root Cellar

Some foods are very easy to preserve with no recipes or fancy equipment needed. This method would be one of those methods.

You can use vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes, and other root veggies to be stored in a dark location underground that is cooler to keep the food fresh.

You can also use this method with apples and tomatoes as long as they are wrapped or stored where they can’t touch one another to cause bruising or rot.

6. Potting

Potting is one of the British food preservation methods. They will pack meat inside a container with a small amount of liquid and seal it tightly.

And this method has been copied by larger industries because stores now sell items such as Spam which is considered potted meat.

7. Freezing

Freezing is a super simple method to preserve practically anything. When you go to the grocery store and see discounted milk or meats because they are about to go bad, don’t pass them up.

Instead, bring them home and pop them in your freezer to prolong their spoil date. You can also blanch fruits and veggies, then freeze them in freezer bags to give them a longer life span.

Here are some recipes to help you with freezing foods:

– Freezing Zucchini

Are you overrun with zucchini or squash every summer? Don’t toss them just because you have grown tired of their fresh summer taste.

Instead, follow our tutorial on how to freeze them. Then you can enjoy them when the temps grow milder. Their freshness will be great again then.

– Freezing Meatloaf

Did you know that you can freeze meats too? Absolutely you can! We spend our winters hunting and processing meat so our freezer is full for the year.

This recipe will show you how to freeze meat that is made into a meatloaf. That way it will save you some time on a busy night.

8. Pickling

I love to pickle foods. It is when you add sugar and vinegar to a pot of boiling water and simmer it all together.

Then you pack whatever you are pickling into a jar and cover it with the liquid. The liquid mixture helps prolong the life of the food that you are pickling.

However, my personal favorites to pickle are jalapenos, banana peppers, cucumbers, and radishes. You’ll have to try a few recipes to find your favorites too.

Here are some recipes to help you pickle foods:

– The Best Dill Pickles

Pickles are an obvious thing to make when you are trying the pickling method. Dill pickles are a delicious option for this because of how tangy they are.

If you like a good pickle to snack on or to put with your hamburger, then you’ll want to try this recipe.

– Fridge Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

I love pickled jalapenos because they allow me to enjoy the spiciness of the jalapeno pepper without being burnt to a crisp.

This method allows the peppers to pickle in the fridge so you don’t have to worry about pulling out a canner.

9. Salting

The first time I heard about salting foods was in Laura Ingle’s Wilder book. This is how they preserved their meat.

Then I heard my mother-in-law talk about when she was a little girl how they would cover their meats in lots of salt and then hang them in the barn to cure. This method could still work today if you live in an area where the temperatures stay cold enough that meat can hang without rotting.

– Salt Cured Ham

This recipe shares how you can salt cure a ham the way they did in the old days. It is a good skill to know how to do because you never know when you could need it.

Plus, it could also produce a quality type of ham you may have never experienced before. You’ll have to try it to see what you think of it.

– Salt Cured Egg Yolks

The first time I saw this recipe I couldn’t help but wonder who would want to preserve egg yolks. Then I read about what they taste like after they’ve been preserved.

If you like cheese, then you may want to try preserving your own egg yolks in salt. The salt makes them turn into an easy to grate cheese type substance.

10. Smoking

Smoking is another older way of preserving food. However, it works and works well because we still use it in our modern times.

So if/when you decide to raise your own meat, this would be a good skill to have so you could create your own smoke flavored meats.

Try these recipes to help you smoke your foods:

– The Smoked Turkey

If you’d like to change things up a little this Thanksgiving, then you might want to consider preparing your turkey a little differently.

In this instance, that means that you smoke your turkey. It looks delicious, and I’m sure it smells wonderful too.

11. Vacuum Sealing

Vacuum sealing your food is a great way to preserve it. It is super easy as well. You’ll need a vacuum sealer, then you just place the food in the bags and seal.

Now, unless you dehydrated the food first, you’ll need to pop it in the freezer so it won’t spoil. However, the vacuum sealer does help to avoid freezer burn.

12. Canning

Canning is my all-time favorite food preservation method. The reason is that it is so simple, and I can recreate anything I purchase from the store in a can.

The next time you have excess food, don’t toss it or let it spoil, think of your favorite food that involves that ingredient, make it, and then can it for later.

You are cooking your favorite foods, then storing them in a sterilized jar and sealing them so that it will last for months to come.

Try these recipes to help you with your canning:

– Homemade Applesauce

I love fresh applesauce, but I’m busy and don’t always have time to make it. So when apple season comes in I make applesauce galore.

Then we can enjoy fresh applesauce any time we feel like it. It only takes the twist of a lid.

Well, now you know of 12 different food preservation methods. Plus, you have multiple recipes to help you along whichever food preservation path you choose.


10 Things We Can All Do to Support a Local Food System

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Supporting local food systems has an array of benefits: it can strengthen local economies and communities, aid local small-scale farmers, preserve open spaces, benefit the environment, and help ensure community farms will still be there tomorrow— just to name a few. Food Tank highlights 10 ideas to support local food systems.

Choose restaurants that source foods locally and support workers. Eating locally doesn’t have to stop when you leave your kitchen. Many chefs source at least some, if not all, of their ingredients locally. Try Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guide or the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United’s Diners’ Guide to Ethical Eating. Alternately, go directly to restaurant websites and online menus, or call to speak with an employee to learn which of the restaurants in your neighborhood source foods from local farmers.

Embrace biodiversity. Find out which foods are your region’s specialties and try those rarer varieties. Instead of factory-farmed Broad Breasted White turkeys, for instance, find a heritage breed unique to your area and discover a wonderful array of new flavors. Choosing local varieties is not only good for the local food system, but also helps preserve genetic diversity. Slow Food’s Ark of Taste can help you discover what types of foods are unique to where you live.

Look for local brands in stores, using resources like the Eat Well Guide. Buying locally produced items from grocery stores, sometimes in lieu of the farmers market, can ensure that local products stay on the shelves—and may lead to grocers stocking even more options. If you don’t want to offend your farmer, make sure to emphasize that you still love the farm’s products, and will continue your support by purchasing his or her wares at your neighborhood food stores.

Make suggestions. If your local supermarkets don’t stock locally-sourced foods, ask. Tell your friends to ask, too. Store owners want to provide customers with in-demand products, and respond well to consumer suggestions. If there is enough call for local products, owners will be more likely to bring these items into stores.

Plan your menus around what’s being harvested. Even if everything you buy isn’t produced in your community, you still contribute to the local food system by building seasonal foods into your recipes. In colder months, swap the heat-loving basil in pesto for a winter green like kale or beet greens. Switch the peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes in your summertime pasta primavera for broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts in fall.

Preserve. If you live somewhere with cold winters, you may not have many local produce options for a good portion of the year. Make eating locally easier during these less bountiful months by buying up products you love while they’re in season and preserving them—pickling, canning, drying, jellying, and freezing are a few common methods.

Sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to receive a share of fresh produce from a local farm, usually on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. To join, customers pay a farmer for shares at the beginning of the season. This is extremely helpful for producers, as farms incur many of the costs associated with farming before the season even begins—like buying and planting seeds, or paying workers to prepare the land. Additionally, by joining a CSA, you share in the inherent risks of the agricultural season, helping to guarantee farmers the necessary financial support each growing season.

Try the less popular crops that are necessary for healthy soil and a successful farm. Dan Barber, renowned chef and author, explains in the The New York Times that by “celebrating the All-Stars of the farmers market—asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, emmer wheat—farm-to-table advocates are often guilty of ignoring a whole class of humbler crops that are required to produce the most delicious food.” Rotating in the more modest beans and mustard seed creates the fertile soil required for high-demand crops. When unable to sell these less popular foods, farmers must dedicate the crops to alternative purposes, such as animal feeds, and lose profits. Talk to farmers and learn which supporting crops their land needs, then incorporate these different foods into your diet.

Volunteer. Many small-scale farms can use a little extra help with a variety of tasks around the property. Volunteering at a local farm can enable you to learn more about your local agriculturalist and the work they do every day, while building lasting relationships and giving back to your local food system. There are international organizations—such as Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)—that facilitate volunteering on sustainable farms, as well as social activism organizations—such as DoSomething—that provide volunteering opportunities. Alternatively, speak to the farmers at your local market to find an outfit in need of assistance.


First, the foods your dog should never eat

If you&rsquore cooking for your dog, you should have a handle on what&rsquos off the table. Foods like chocolate, grapes and raisins, avocado, onions, garlic and anything salty and/or seasoned could make your dog truly ill. ASPCA has a more comprehensive list of foods your dog should not eat, but if you&rsquore unsure, you can always ask your vet.

Another thing to note is how your dog eats food. Can your dog handle chewing a big hunk of celery (which, spoiler alert, they can eat!)? Most dogs will require their food chopped to a size that doesn&rsquot pose a choking hazard.

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8. Improvement in food security

The importance of food security is becoming much greater. A growing world food crisis is emerging due to continued population growth and increased use and consumption of biofuels. Poor communities are the most vulnerable to rising food prices and shortages, possibly creating food deserts. The development of local, organic farms can enhance food security by providing communities and neighborhoods with fresh produce. Improving food security goes hand-in-hand with supporting local economies.


How do you make homemade dog food?

  • Food Processor: Before I start cooking a batch of homemade dog food, I blend up all the vegetables in my food processor. This Cuisinart food processor is my go-to. It&rsquos a bit smaller than traditional food processors (we don&rsquot have a lot of counter space) but works just as well as a larger model. Blending up the veggies nice and fine will speed up the cooking process.
  • Dutch Oven: I make the entire batch in my large Le Creuset round Dutch oven. I love using a Dutch oven because I can ground the meat first, and then finish off the batch right in the same pot. The process is very similar to making chili&hellip except for dogs. Ya know&hellipDog Chili. (Yes, you can also use a crockpot. Just add all the ingredients and set it on high for 4 hours).
  • Measuring Cups: Rascal has his own set of measuring cups now because it makes measuring out food ingredients and the finished batch WAY easier.
  • Meal Prep Containers: This is basically meal prepping for your dog, so you will need some great Tupperware.


How To Find Your Local Food Sources

Locally sourced food is one of the cornerstones of green living, but finding the sources you need for your regular food requirements isn&apost always easy. Sure, you might have a great farmer&aposs market in the summer time but what about locally raised free-range meat, or dairy products, or even those dry goods like flour, nuts, and canned food that are still essential?

1. Call the owner or manager of the local farmer&aposs market and get some names.
Those vendors who are at the farmer&aposs market are often small farmers with additional products to sell all year long. They may raise livestock and sell meat or dairy in addition to the fresh produce you pick up during the summer. Get their names and contact information from the manager of the farmer&aposs market and get on the phone. You&aposll often get better prices, too, by ordering ahead of time or ordering for a group (get your friends in on this). You&aposre supporting local farmers, getting local food, and getting better prices.

2. Research food co-ops and CSAs in your area.
Food co-op groups often form to meet the specific food demands that large grocery stores overlook. Maybe you want artisanal dairy products, or bulk dry goods, or home-delivered, locally grown produce. Use the Internet and local contacts to find people who do bulk food purchases together, and you&aposre likely to find a wealth of information and resources about local food availability. Don&apost be afraid to ask what you don&apost know.

3. Go to websites that serve as local food directories.
There are several national sites that serve as online directories for local food producers and suppliers. You can often find a list of farmers and other food suppliers in your area. Check out these sites:

4. Put out a want ad on Craigslist.
Craigslist, or other online classified services with local targeting, can be a great way to connect with people who produce local food products, from small farmers to home bakers. Put out an ad in the wanted section, and specify what you&aposre looking for, then give people a way to contact you. You can list the type of local food you&aposd like to find, and also put out a request for information from people who know where to find it. This is a great way to find home bakers or cooks who like to can preserves, make their own pickles, or come up with other homemade food offerings they aren&apost a "business" but they can be a great food source, or, at the least, an information source.

5. Contact your local newspapers or area magazines.
Reporters or columnists who cover topics such as gardening, food, dining, and agricultural can often point you in the right direction to the local food suppliers you&aposd like to find. It&aposs their job to be on top of stories and find contacts within those markets, and they&aposre bound to come across local growers, bakers, gourmets, and suppliers. You can usually find a direct email address to different newspaper or magazine writers in the publication or on the publication&aposs website. Just send a friendly query in, asking for help locating local food sources (you might specify what kind of food you&aposre looking for) and see what kind of response you get. Who knows, maybe you&aposll inspire a local reporter to write about local farmers and food offerings.