Food CostSupply Chainsustainability

Blueberry Barrens Are Going Barren: the Impact of Environmental and Economic Factors Is Affecting Our Food Sources

While there are many restaurants that use only locally and sustainably grown and produced foods, most of the food industry is based on a global list of ingredients. Many of these ingredients are succumbing to environmental changes and economic market fluctuations. It is easy to say, just stop using these ingredients, but the reality is that we have become dependent on global resources for menu items.

The environment is tied to the economy and vice versa.

In Maine, a state known for its Wild Maine Blueberries, many growers are allowing their blueberry barrens to go barren. It was bumper, bumper, bust.

When it becomes too costly to grow, harvest and sell the blueberries, the farmers are bowing out. After several bumper years, where the berry surplus drove down prices, many farmers have allowed their fields to go fallow. The government has done a bailout, but there seem to be only so many sources to buy and use the berries. Last year (2018) was not a bumper year, but the impact of the last few years affected the economic decisions of many farmers in this bust year. Growing decisions are made a year before, so when a field has been allowed to go fallow, a grower cannot change course mid-season. It’s too late.

The result? Prices surged. Oh, there are still plenty of berries to be had, but the price went up. Environment…economic.

Blueberries are not alone in this scourge.

Lobsters – are moving to Canada from Maine. As the waters warm the numbers of lobsters has fluctuated. In a recent year, the numbers were few, and the prices were so low, that many lobstermen did not go out lobstering. It was good for the eaters, but not good for those who depended on it for a living.

Be it environmental or economic, the impact is felt globally.

There are food commodities around the world that are succumbing to fallout from globally induced situations. Bananas are being attacked from a fungus that is spreading around the globe threatening the most widely known species, the Cavendish. As a hearty variety that transported well, it became a staple food in households the world round. It is now in danger of being wiped out. Yes, and entire industry on the brink.

Almonds require more water than the areas that produce them have to grow them, thus exacerbating drought conditions as water is deviated from other sources. Yet the world craves almonds and has become a milk replacement and a healthy fat alternative. Yet, people want the almonds, the cost goes up, the demand, goes up, and the environmental impact is going to be harsh.


Being aware is the first step in the food chain.

Globalism cannot be undone. Environmental changes take years to reverse, if it can even be done. By being aware of the impact, be it economic or environmental is the first step. A simple Google will produce a plethora of information with which to arm oneself about the ingredients in the kitchen. Understanding how ingredients are grown, produced, sourced and transported will go a long way in balancing the environment to economic impact and vice versa that an ingredient can have on a restaurant menu.


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