Food miles

Progressive’ people talk about food miles, and mostly wouldn’t contest that eating ‘organic’ food is a plus, but then progressive people often talk about what feels good for them as being superior to what others do!

The two obvious flaws in this are:

Measuring how far away from you that food was grown really doesn’t tell us much about the energy that has gone into that food. It might have been grown only 10 km’s away, but it may well have been loaded and unloaded multiple times to get to you. It might have been carted in small vans in comparison to a large goods train.

Where it’s grown says little about the ‘efficiency’ of how it was grown. Some environments are naturally suited to growing particular types of food, including our staples. Most people use dairy, but dairy is most efficiently produced in particular climates and at a particular scale of production. How far away from you it was produced tells us little about that. So in considering what foods to eat that are good for the ‘planet’, one needs to look at all the factors that add up to the finished energy input, not just how far it’s travelled.

Similar analysis should be used when considering organic products. The fact that they are mostly more expensive, suggests very strongly that they are more expensive to produce, if not they would be the same price as food produced non – organically. Paying more for food means you’ve got less to spend on other things, including your donations to Medicines Sans Frontier, or you need to take more in terms of income to support your decision.

For me it just makes sense to eat simply and to choose low cost items. These are the ones that usually have the lowest energy inputs and also those that are in season, so most likely to have been produced close to home. That way I don’t need to earn us much, leaving more for others, and I have surplus income which I can use to support those with less than me, or other actions that help others and the environment.

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