Like eating locally, choosing seasonal produce for your meals has become a “foodie” trend. A study done by the BBC Good Food Magazine revealed that 86% of the 2,000 people surveyed in the UK stated that shopping seasonally was important, but only a fraction of them could actually list when certain produce was in season. So why would the majority of individuals who were surveyed fib about their knowledge of seasonal produce? To be a part of the hype? To look like the more environmentally conscious individual amongst their peers? I mean, if people want to lie about participating in a certain trend, then there has to be something legitimate in the trend. Eating seasonally and locally have become two closely related terms and with that relation comes the same critical question: Is eating seasonal produce actually better for people and environmentally sustainable or is it no better than conventional eating?
In developed nations, having an array of meats, fruits, and vegetables available all year long at the local grocery store is a normal commodity, like being able to top your bowl of oatmeal with fresh strawberries in December or having beef steak for dinner any night of the week. Contrary to what the convenience of a grocery store has taught us, all foods have a season. With all produce, there is a distinct difference in flavor, size, color, nutritional value, etc. that correlates with whether or not it was picked in or out of its season. For example, eggs are best to eat in the spring since the chickens are able to obtain more nutrients, thus giving the egg a richer color. In fact, there are specific dishes to be made with eggs that are laid in each of the four seasons based solely on the change of yolk color. With eating seasonally, it can be assumed that eating produce that is in season would be more nutritious and better for the consumer.
In the sustainability aspect of eating seasonally, this diet choice is better for the environment because it helps to cut down on energy costs and fossil fuel usage in a variety of ways, one way being lowered energy consumption from refrigerated storage of produce since more fruits and vegetables would be bought and eaten as soon as they were harvested. As for burning fossil fuels, eating seasonally has been shown to lower greenhouse gas emissions since eating seasonally and locally go hand-in-hand, thus minimizing the transportation aspect of getting food from the farm to your table.
An issue with only consuming seasonal produce is that during some seasons, particularly winter, the available amount of fruit and vegetables becomes scarce. According to Seasonal Food Guide, a website specifically for finding out what produce is available to you depending on what state you live in and the time of year, the only produce available in Colorado during late December is primarily root vegetables and beans; horseradish, salsify, lima beans, shell beans, and sprouts would be on the plate of a Colorado resident who was trying to eat both locally and seasonally. This would be an extremely limited diet for any individual and it would not meet someone’s daily nutritional needs, so it would be better for them to shop conventionally.
Now someone might bring up eating frozen fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. from the past season to forgo the trip to the grocery store and still meet nutritional values for the day. However, according to a study conducted by UC Davis researchers, some vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C or ascorbic acid are easily lost when the produce is canned or frozen for consumption later. With that being said, the health benefit gained from eating frozen produce would not outweigh the environmental impact from having to use energy to store them in refrigerators.
With the points I gathered, I believe eating sustainably is both better for the environment and healthy for consumers. My family frequently buys produce when it is in season and we make dishes based upon what is available and we also can and freeze things such as tomatoes and green chilies so we have them all year long. I think that eating seasonally would be an obtainable goal for everybody who would like to help our environment while also benefiting themselves.