Small artisanal farms might not be our environmental salvation


[Cricket flour] was the first note of a dinner set up by the Breakthrough Institute, a pro-technology environmental think tank, in order to showcase sustainable farming.

When I started out writing about food and the environment 15 years ago, I assumed that big, industrial farms were the problem and that the answer was to pay more for artisanal production. … As Breakthrough Institute Director Ted Nordhaus explained to some three dozen people crowded into a San Francisco restaurant, recent studies suggest that conventional wisdom has it mostly backward: Industrial farms tend to have a smaller environmental footprint than organic ones.

Food is flavored by its story, and for the last decade, we’ve been hearing a story about how intensively farmed food is inferior in every way. Breakthrough is trying to rewrite that narrative. Environmentally, they’ve got a point: Big ag often produces less pollution than the locally sourced, artisanal fare I’d fetishized for more than a decade. But I’m skeptical that industrial farming will ever become the darling of fine dining.

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