Buy local. No, buy organic.

Consumers who want to eat more sustainably have been wrestling with different marching orders about what’s best for the earth. Buying food grown close to home supports local farmers, preserves open land and cuts down on fuel consumption, but may involve eating produce raised with chemical fertilizers or treated with pesticides. Organic food is raised in an environmentally friendly way, but may have to be transported from as far away as California, Mexico or even China.

Like any food shopper, Emory University wanted to buy food that fit its conscience — and its budget. The school set a goal of having 75 percent of food served on campus come from local or sustainable sources by 2015. That adds up to more than 11,000 meals daily.

As it turns out, those solutions didn’t come easily.

After nearly a year of discussion, Emory unveiled its buying guidelines to farmers and suppliers last month. Although the ultimate goal is to buy Georgia-grown food raised in an environmentally, socially and economically responsible way, that isn’t the first priority in most cases, or even the second or third. Instead, buyers are focusing on regional produce and on meat, milk and eggs raised humanely and without antibiotics or growth hormones.
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