Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going Locavore--Not Really Green?

Students in a design and architecture course at the California College of the Arts had the assignment to track down the origin of all ingredients of a taco sold by Juan's Taco Truck, of Portrero Hill.

Over the fall semester, the class tracked the origin and destiny of each element in the production of a taco from Juan’s Taco Truck, generally found at the corner of 17th and Carolina streets in Potrero Hill. Each student chose an individual ingredient to follow, from the adobo seasoning to the aluminum foil wrapping and propane used in cooking.

There were quite a few surprises--

The students were surprised to find that several ingredients were produced locally, such as the salt, which had come from just south of San Francisco. The cheese, which appeared at Restaurant Depot as an in-house brand called Supremo Italiano, was actually from a company with 10 regional plants around the West that source ingredients and sell locally, despite their larger national brand.

Other ingredients had come from much further away. The various spices in the Adobo seasoning, for instance, had traveled a combined 15,000 miles. The avocados had traveled from Chile, home of the world’s largest avocado grower (a company that was said to produce 300 million fruit per year). The rice was imported from Thailand, despite an abundance of California-grown rice, and was packaged under an array of brand names. “The taco truck owner may have bought the bag with the Sombrero on it, while another shopper at Restaurant Depot might have bought the exact same rice with a Buddha on the package,” said Bela.

The results of the assignment are fascinating, and illustrate the complexity of our world economy, and the difficulties inherent in ascertaining whether a product is environmentally "good" or "bad"--in fact must make us question such labels.