Recently, I’ve noticed a new trend in recipe ingredients. When newer recipes, especially those on foodie recipe websites, call for olive oil, they don’t just call for “2 tbsp. olive oil.” The recipes now frequently call for “2 tbsp. of the best olive oil you can get.” I don’t know about you, but when I think of best quality olive oil, I always think it must come from Italy. So I make sure my olive oil comes from Italy.
I know that olive oil is a healthier choice, and I use it frequently. I buy the supermarket brand (which is a product of Italy) because, honestly, I understand that some of the more expensive brands may taste better, but I’m not willing to put out the money for expensive oil. But maybe I should be. Or maybe I should be buying it from a source closer to me than Italy – like the U.S.
Here’s why I’m questioning my olive oil choices. I recently came across an article written last August in the U.K. Telegraph titled Olive Oil Consumption Leading to ‘Serious Environmental Problem.’ According to the article, Ecologist magazine reports that in Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal
trees are densely packed, planted in massive irrigated lowland plains and harvested by machines that shake the trunks, which uses more water and chemicals than traditional farms on upland terraces.
It says: “To meet this new appetite mass-market brands are produced intensively, so supermarkets can sell it in high volumes at lower prices.
“Demand for cheap, mass-produced oil is making it a struggle for the smaller, traditional farms to be economically viable.”
So it seems that my demand for the best quality olive oil at a low price could possibly be damaging the environment and harming the small, traditional farms in Italy. In fact, the article goes on to say that Guy Beaufoy, a consultant on agricultural and environmental policies in Europe, calls the situation “an environmental catastrophe” because
the more intensive plantations are of “little or no conservation value, and create environmental problems – desertification, pollution from agrichemicals, depletion of water resources.
So, what am I to do? Well, first of, I’m not going to beat myself up for something I was unaware of. But, now that I am aware, I’m going to look into finding out where I can get more local, more environmentally friendly sources of olive oil. I live on the east coast, so I doubt truly local olive oil is available. But, I’m going to see what I can find out about that and other olive oil that is produced in the U.S. On Wednesday, I’ll get back to you with my findings in Part 2.
In the meantime, if you buy U.S. produced olive oil, let me know where you get it from and what you think of it in the comments. And, if you get it from a producer near the east coast, please tell me where.
Image courtesy of flickr.