Often, when a person hears the term food miles, they get confused. They think it is some type of reward system like air miles. But food miles is about the transportation of food from where it is first produced until it goes into the hands of the consumer.
Why are Food Miles Important?
For most, they will think the importance of food miles only applies to the quality of the food once it reaches the consumer. It is true that this is important, but there are other critical factors. One of these is how some foods affect global warming.
Greenhouse gas emissions are of grave concern for the world’s environment. It has been shown that red meat along with dairy products produce almost half of the greenhouse emissions linked to the average household. However, the problem lies mostly within the methods of the food product itself and not the transportation methods when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.
How Far Does Food Travel?
A lot of people don’t want to restrict themselves to specific foods when they are in season. They want to enjoy their choice of foods year round. They are usually able to do this thanks to food imports. What they might not give thought to is how many miles do these foods travel to get to the consumer.
In the United States, it is indicated that the meals that are consumed usually end up traveling about 1,500 miles from their production point to the table. For the consumer, their focus is on the quality of the food such as the fruits and vegetables. However, to be able to deliver these types of farm foods in good condition, they go through different processes. These processes can be harmful to the environment and can have effects on the quality of the food items.
- Fossil Fuels: Foods being imported naturally are traveling many miles and are brought in by different forms of transportation. For example, by truck, air or sea. Transportation of food goods requires large amounts of fossil fuels.
- Air Pollution: Depending on the type of transportation used there is the risk of increased dioxide emissions. Those shipping by air create larger quantities of these compared to those shipped by sea.
- Gas Ripening: It is quite impressive to see fruits and veggies imported from far distances look so fresh and good. This can be deceiving as many of these food items are gassed to ripen once they arrive at their destination. Another option used is to laden them with preservatives and different forms of irradiation.
For those who want to ensure that they are consuming foods that have not been altered to preserve them it may mean changing the way they purchase these items. It may also mean having to give up some of the foods that are out of season. One viable way of doing this is by shopping through locally grown food producers. Another option is to buy the foods when in season and freeze them for future use.
Once the attention is focused on the travel miles of food it makes it easier for the consumer to make better food choices and find alternatives when it comes to where the foods are purchased. This allows the attention to be placed on locally grown foods.