Sustainability Debate Comes to Your Local Deli

By Sajid Farooq
|  Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM PDT
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Sustainability Debate Comes to Your Local Deli

Pepino 1976 on Flickr

A sandwich at Saul's. Photo: Pepino 1976 on Flickr

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How do you pack a deli during a recession? Charge $10 to watch locavores and pastrami aficionados go at it.

Saul’s Deli in Berkeley invited the author of "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," a green business consultant and an urban farmer to debate with two deli owners about the sustainability of Jewish delis.

And while there are challenges of a traditional deli going green it is not impossible. The owner of Saul's says he has done little things like buying meat locally and not selling industry produced rye bread.

But the challenges he faces center more around customer expectations and keeping the business sustainable, so to speak.

The customers at Saul's, like many other traditional delis, have specific expectations of what they will get -- and how much -- at a low price. That makes things difficult.
 
Buying local and sustainable products comes with a cost that either customers have to be willing to pick up or restrain themselves from complaining about smaller portions.

But smaller portions or higher costs may not be a bad thing for their economic health.

Saul's owner told Mid Life Mitzvah he loses money every time he sells a traditional pastrami sandwich because he has to serve it with more meat than he can recuperate.

For him going green could actually mean making green. And he would be allowed to feel good about himself in the process.

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