Thursday, August 14, 2008

Philadelphia City Paper article claims rising fuel prices are making it harder to eat vegan

The article is a bit misleading and seems to be a whole lot of writing just for the sake of writing. Rising fuel prices are making it more expensive to eat anything. The article perpetuates the myth that veganism is complicated and requires special food substitutes that are only available in specialty stores.

A quote from the article:

Vegans, according to Widener University professor of economics Joseph Fuhr, have been particularly hard hit by increasing food prices, driven up by the price of gas. "They have less flexibility in terms of what to buy," he says. So when one item increases in price, it's that much harder to find a substitute.

"When you're cooking for a vegan person," says Rachel Klein, who runs Miss Rachel's Traveling Fare, a local vegan and vegetarian catering service, "you can't get everything you need from one store. ... I'm going to Whole Foods, I'm going to Trader Joe's, to Wegmans, to ShopRite. I'm going to the Vietnamese market." Gas prices on these errands add up.

Things are especially difficult for restaurants. "People are expecting a certain level of quality that we're not going to sacrifice," says Rich Landau, owner of Horizons restaurant in Bella Vista. "At a restaurant like ours, it's got to be about freshness ... We need trucks in front every day." With new fuel service costs, that can cost Landau an extra $10 to $15 per day — which he is eating, rather than passing along to his customers.

As for the first two paragraphs of this quote, these people being quoted seem to be making the assumption that vegans require specialty processed foods that can only be found in health food stores (which means having to burn more gas driving around). That's grossly misleading. I get most of my stuff from one of the two major supermarkets in town, and most of the foodstuff that I get is pretty basic -- legumes, produce, whole grains, tofu, et al. -- and is pretty much available almost
anywhere I'd shop. Even the specialty processed vegan foods (e.g. meat subs) are generally available most anywhere now, as well.

As for the last paragraph in the quote -- I'd hope that this applies to any kind of restaurant, not just vegan restaurants, and it does nothing to support the article's claim that vegan diets, specifically, are dependent on cheap gas in any way. At least no more than any other diet.

Read the rest of the article here.


J said...

It doesn't seem fair to single out vegans in particular here - as you note, the rise in gas prices is contributing to the rise in cost of EVERYTHING, not just specialty vegan items. From what I understand from conversations with my omnivore family members, the cost of milk and meat has gone up just as much if not more than beans, rice, and veggies in the past year.

Also, I'm with you, I actually NEVER go to health food stores. During the summer, I get most of my food from the farmer's market or my garden, and what I can't get there I can get from the "regular" grocery store. We eat simply too - beans, rice, other legumes and veggies that are in season.

There is just so much misinformation when it comes to eating lower on the food chain and it's frustrating. My family sees what I am doing, that I am healthy, and they still have this notion that veg*ns are these "less fit", sickly, pale, and scrawny ideologues even though I am not one! I don't even get it...

M said...

Propping their point up by saying that vegans need to drive around and rely on processed foods was just plain old silly.

They're not looking at the true cost of food, either. There's more plant matter grown and transported to produce meat. Therefore, there's also more oil-based fertilizer used (assuming we're dealing with industrial agriculture). Eating higher up on the food chain definitely means more oil usage and if not for the fact that the meat and dairy industries are so heavily subsidized, the price of milk and meat on supermarket shelves would be going up even more drastically than it has been recently.

Even if consumers aren't paying for all of it at the cash register, they're doing so at tax time.