Food Miles: The Case for Local Food

Eat local food: It’s thousands of miles fresher!

According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, typical “fresh” fruits and vegetables from conventional sources travel an average of 1500 miles to get to your table. They found that conventional produce travels about 27 times farther than local produce (56 miles on average).

But this data did not include imported produce, which would make the distances far greater! The typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.

There’s more to the food-energy equation than transport. There is also the energy required in food production, storage and refrigeration. Emeritus physics professor Albert A. Bartlett has referred to modern industrial agriculture as “the process of using land to convert petroleum into food.” This reflects the heavy reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, as well as the fuel required for farm machinery, food processing and transportation.

Creating a more sustainable food supply system requires a greater emphasis on both local food production and less-energy-intensive production techniques. However, the seasonal nature of local food production means that fresh produce will be available only for a few weeks or months each year. Therefore, a greater reliance on local foods requires some form of food preservation. Solar food drying has an obvious roll in providing a truly sustainable solution to the local food supply challenge.

See this grocery store ad to find out where your “fresh” produce comes from in March.

See how much gasoline it takes to deliver various food items to your grocery store in this Sierra Magazine article from the May/June 2006 issue.

The source for some of the above figures: “Checking the food odometer: Comparing food miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions.


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