Is the Global Kale Shortage a Real Crisis? Maybe.

Kale Shortage

Both Salon.com and Modern Farmer recently ran pieces addressing rampant rumors that some parts of the world are facing local shortages of kale. Basically, adding fuel to the fire, major seed producers are now making public statements that they are running out of stock for most varieties of the suddenly buzz-worthy superfood. But is all the hubbub really warranted?

Salon.com’s coverage is decidedly skeptical about this latest global food crisis. “The shortage is a myth,” Salon reporter Lindsay Abrams concludes, “Evidence of a worldwide shortage, in this case, is scant.” Modern Farmer’s Monica Kim also points out how rumors of kale shortages are not new, and have circulated around CSAs and greengrocers on multiple occasions over the last few years, as kale has grown in popularity among consumers– and profitability for its suppliers.

Salon’s reporting suggests that consumers not worry – the availability of kale is probably not under any real threat. But Modern Farmer makes a bit more interesting point: why exactly does the potential threat of local-market kale shortages strike such a resonant chord among the healthy-eating set? Even going beyond the examples of other readily-available healthy foods like broccoli and arugula mentioned in Kim’s article, there are numerous leafy green vegetables that rate just as highly on the ANDI nutrition scale (collard greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, watercress, et al.) that would make relatively seemless – and perhaps even more flavorful – substitutions for kale in most recipes.

So, then, where’s the crisis?  With such an abundance of uber-healthy, leafy-green choices even if there was a shortage, why all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth?

Well if there is a crisis, it is with the iconic marketing status that kale has achieved among certain groups of consumers. Suppliers of kale have become very successful at positioning their product as the absolute apogee of healthy eating, when it is just one very nice meal ingredient among many others. And that fact should make us all do a little re-assessment of the fixations and self-imposed limits that we accept with respect to some of our food choices – even when we are consciously going out of our way to try to be healthy.

Melting down about a potential kale shortage hardly suggests that even the crunchiest foodies have a ways to go to become truly well-informed food consumers. A better response, if kale ever were to become genuinely unavailable to the masses, might be for us to embrace the opportunity to diversify our diets a bit more and shout in unison, “bring on the collard greens!”

Both articles are worth a read.

Lindsay Adams, “The Global Kale Shortage and the Problem with Superfoods,” Salon.com

Monica Kim, “Ration the Green Juice: The Great Kale Shortage is Upon Us,” Modern Farmer

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