Food Miles: Background                                               and Marketing    A Publication of ATTRA - National Su...
A report released in 1998 by the USDA                   system analysts, has its price. The farther                       ...
Recent research at the University of Chicago     Fig. 2: Transportation accounts for 14% of energy use within the food sys...
Average distance by truck to Chicago Terminal Market*                                                                     ...
costs of food transport including accidents,                  Food system            Fuel      $ value of fuel   CO2 emiss...
uses less energy than housing and feeding                                                                                 ...
consumers who are reducing food miles help     how to join or start a farmers’ market suc-to create local markets. There a...
such as food miles and CO2 emissions has        Consumer Considerations                              on consumers. The stu...
This study concludes that “For a person                    natural gas and other fossil fuels, through aconsuming a red me...
Food Miles Tools                                      fruits and vegetables rather than produce                           ...
References                                                    10) Xureb, Marc. 2005. Food Miles: Environmen-              ...
Food Miles: Background and Marketing                  By Holly Hill                  NCAT Research Specialist             ...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Food Miles: Background and Marketing


Published on

Food Miles: Background and Marketing

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Food Miles: Background and Marketing

  1. 1. Food Miles: Background and Marketing A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Holly Hill The term ‘food miles’ refers to the distance food travels from the location where it is grown to theNCAT Research location where it is consumed, or in other words, the distance food travels from farm to plate. RecentSpecialist studies have shown that this distance has been steadily increasing over the last fifty years. Studies© 2008 NCAT estimate that processed food in the United States travels over 1,300 miles, and fresh produce travels over 1,500 miles, before being consumed. This publication addresses how food miles are calculated, investigates how food miles affect producers and consumers, and evaluates methods for curbing the energy intensiveness of our food transportation system.ContentsIntroduction ..................... 1Background ...................... 1The Energy EmbeddedIn Our Food ...................... 2Calculating FoodMiles .................................... 3Food Miles andEnergy ................................ 5What Producers ShouldKnow ................................... 6ConsumerConsiderations ................ 8Food Miles Tools ........... 10Conclusion ...................... 10References ...................... 11 Eggs loaded for trucking to market near Chesterfield, SC. Photo by Dave Warren. Courtesy of USDA.Funding for the development Introduction transportation, addresses how food milesof this publication was providedby the USDA Risk Management affect both producers and consumers andAgency. The food mile is a fairly new concept refer- suggests possibilities for creating a more ring to the distance food travels from the sustainable food system. location where it is produced to the loca-ATTRA—National Sustainable tion where it will eventually be consumed. BackgroundAgriculture Information Ser- Food miles have become one method forvice is managed by the NationalCenter for Appropriate Technol- evaluating the sustainability of the global Trendsogy (NCAT) and is funded under food system in terms of energy use. This The United States food system has changeda grant from the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s concept has received an increasing amount substantially over the last fi fty years dueRural Business- CooperativeService. Visit the NCAT Web site of attention over the last decade as climate to a large variety of circumstances includ-( change patterns have become ever more ing the globalization and centralization ofhtml) for more informa-tion on our sustainable apparent. This publication investigates the food industry and the concentration ofagriculture projects. the amount of energy invested in food the food supply onto fewer, larger suppliers.
  2. 2. A report released in 1998 by the USDA system analysts, has its price. The farther found that 80% of the meat industry is con- food travels and the longer it takes en trolled by only four fi rms.(1) In his essay route to the consumer, the more freshness entitled “Food Democracy,” Brian Halweil declines and the more nutrients are lost. states that half of the food items in a typical Many fruits and vegetables are engineered supermarket are produced by no more than for a long shelf life, sacrificing taste and 10 multinational food and beverage com- nutrition for preservation. panies.(2) The majority of food consumed today passes through a complex, indirect As large multinational companies gain con- network of a few large, centralized produc- trol over the food industry, small local farm- ers, processors, transporters and distribu- ers suffer. Since 1979, 300,000 farmers tors before reaching the consumer. have gone out of business and those remain- ing are receiving 13% less for every con- An additional change in the food system is sumer dollar for farm goods.(1) Large dis- the increasing trend of these multinational tributors are able to drive prices down on firms sourcing food from outside of regional, imported goods, forcing many small farms state and even national boundaries in order to either export their crop as a raw com- to provide consistent products at low prices. modity or replace regional crops with some- Figure 1 illustrates the steady increase in thing more profitable. For example, in 1870 world agricultural trade between 1961 and 2000.(3) 100% of the apples consumed in Iowa were produced in Iowa. By 1999, Iowa farmers grew only 15% of the apples consumedFig. 1: Volume of World Agricultural Trade, 1961-2000. Source: Brian Halweil. Home in the state.(4) This phenomenon limitsGrown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. 2002. the potential for local self-sufficiency and increases dependency on outside sources. Changes in the food system have resulted in a broad range of social and economic impli- cations, but the present food system also has an environmental cost. The farther food travels, the more fossil fuels are required for transport. The burning of fossil fuels leads to the emission of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The fol- lowing sections will investigate the extent to which food miles contribute to high energy consumption levels and CO2 emissions. The Energy Embedded in Our Food The Carbon Footprint of the The development of global food transport Food System systems has resulted in higher consumer While studies vary, a typical estimate is expectations. Consumers now have the abil- that the food industry accounts for 10% of ity to choose from a wide variety of food all fossil fuel use in the United States.(5) items, regardless of the season or their loca- Of all the energy consumed by the food sys- tion, all at a low price. tem, only about 20% goes towards produc- The ability to enjoy consistent produce and tion; the remaining 80% is associated with exotic ingredients at all times of the year processing, transport, home refrigeration is a luxury that, according to many food and preparation.Page 2 ATTRA Food Miles: Background and Marketing
  3. 3. Recent research at the University of Chicago Fig. 2: Transportation accounts for 14% of energy use within the food system. Source:has investigated the energy consumption Heller and Keoleian. Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S.of the food system and compared it to the Food System. consumption associated with per-sonal transportation in the United States.Personal transportation is often recog-nized as a major contributor to greenhousegas emissions, as evident in the movementtowards higher efficiency vehicles. Thisstudy found, however, that the averageAmerican uses between 170 and 680 mil-lion BTUs of energy in personal transpor-tation annually and roughly 400 millionBTUs in food consumption.(6) The foodindustry accounts for a considerable portionof energy consumption in the United Statesand merits closer evaluation. 2,000 miles to reach the Chicago market. The average distance traveled amountedAccording to one study, food transportation to 1,518 miles.(9) Figure 3 (next page)accounts for 14% of energy use within the shows the distance that select produce itemsfood system. Figure 2 demonstrates the traveled before reaching their destination atenergy use required for each step of the food the Chicago Terminal Market.industry process.(7) Food miles, although Related ATTRAa fraction of the U.S. energy consumption Another study conducted in the Waterloo Publicationsas a whole, remain a considerable source of Region of Southwestern Ontario investigatedcarbon emissions, especially when consider- the food miles associated with 58 commonly Bringing Local Fooding that the United States is the single larg- eaten, imported foods. The study found to Local Institutions:est emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, that each food item traveled an average of A Resource Guide foraccounting for 23% of the global total at 4,497 kilometers or 2,811 miles, producing Farm-to-School andnearly 1,600 million metric tons annually. 51,709 tons of greenhouse gas emissions Farm-to-Institution ProgramsThe U.S. food system alone uses as much annually.(10)energy as France’s total annual energy Community-Supported These calculated distances don’t include the Agricultureconsumption.(8) distance consumers travel to shop for food or the distance that waste food travels to be Direct MarketingCalculating Food Miles disposed of. It is apparent that food is trav- Farmers’ Markets eling long distances, but the extent to whichHow Far Does Food Travel? food miles have an effect on the environ- Local Food DirectoriesThe Leopold Center for Sustainable Agri- ment is more complex. The following sec-culture has been the leading researcher of tions will cover the formulas used to calcu-food miles in the United States and has con- late food miles and investigate the energyducted several studies comparing the dis- involved in the transportation of food.tance food travels if it is sourced locallyrather than conventionally. A 1998 study How Are Food Miles Calculated?examined the distance that 30 conventional A series of formulas for calculating foodfresh produce items traveled to reach the miles has been developed and has becomeChicago Terminal Market. widely accepted. Calculating the distance aThe Leopold Center found that only two food item has traveled varies in complexityfood items, pumpkins and mushrooms, depending on whether the item is made uptraveled less than 500 miles. Six food items of a single ingredient or multiple ingredi-including grapes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, ents and the mode of transportation used tocauliflower and green peas traveled over carry the ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. Average distance by truck to Chicago Terminal Market* # of States % Total formula takes into account both distance supplying from (Continental U.S. only) this item Mexico and the associated greenhouse gas emis- sions for different modes of transportation. Grapes 2,143 miles 1 7 This formula was developed by the non- profit organization LifeCycles, in 2004. Broccoli 2,095 miles 3 3 For detailed information about food miles Asparagus 1,671 miles 5 37 formulas and calculating food miles, see the Leopold Center’s publication, Apples 1,555 miles 8 0 Calculating food miles for a multiple ingredient Sweet food product < Corn 813 miles 16 7 pubs/staff/files/foodmiles_030305.pdf> Squash 781 miles Each truck represents 12 43 about 500 miles of distance traveled Mode of Transportation Pumpkins 233 miles 5 0 As suggested by the Weighted Average * Information for this chart is based on the weighted aver- age source distance, a single distance figure that combines production origin to Chicago were estimated by using a city located in the center of each state as the production origin, Emissions Ratio formula, the mode by information on distances from production source to consump- tion or purchase endpoint. For these calculations, USDA Agri- and then calculating a one-way road distance to Chicago using the Internet site Mapquest ( Estimations do which food is transported is an important cultural Marketing Service arrival data for 1998 were used to identify production origin (state or country). Distances from not include distance from the Chicago Terminal Market to point of retail sale. factor when considering the environmental impact of food miles. A food item travel-Fig.3: Distance Produce Traveled to Reach Chicago Market. ing a short distance may produce more CO2Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture than an item with high food miles, depend- ing on how it is transported. The Weighted Average Source Distance (WASD) formula was developed by Annika Figure 4 (below) contains the estimated val- Carlsson-Kanyama in 1997 and takes into ues of energy consumption and greenhouse account the amount of food transported in gas emissions for four different transportation weight and the distance that it travels from modes measured in the UK.(11) Air trans- the place of production to the place of sale. portation is, by far, the most energy intensive Fruits and vegetables and other items consist- means of transporting food and other goods. ing of only one ingredient would utilize the A study released in the UK in 2005 found WASD formula for calculating food miles.A that air transport is the fastest growing ir transpor- The Weighted Total Source Distance mode of food distribution and although tation is, (WTSD) formula was developed by the air transport accounts for only 1% of food by far, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture transport in the UK, it results in 11% ofmost energy inten- and accounts for multiple-ingredient foods the country’s CO2 emissions. The UK reportsive means of trans- by calculating the weight and distance also estimated that the social and economicporting food and traveled for each ingredi- ent. Foods like f lavoredother goods. Fig.4: Energy use and emissions for different modes of freight transport. yogurt, bread, and other Source: Transport for a Sustainable Future: The Case for Europe.(11) processed foods would employ the WTSD formula Rail Water Road Air Primary energy for calculating food miles. consumption 677 423 2,890 15,839 KJ/Tonne-km While both WASD and Specific total emissions WTSD convey an estimate g/Tonne-km of the distance food trav- Carbon dioxide 41.0 30.0 207 1,260 els between the producer and consumer, neither for- Hydrocarbons 0.06 0.04 0.3 2.0 mula addresses greenhouse Volatile Organic 0.08 0.1 1.1 3.0 Compounds gas emissions associated with this distance traveled. Nitrogen oxide 0.2 0.4 3.6 5.5 The Weighted Average Carbon monoxide 0.05 0.12 2.4 1.4 Emissions Ratio (WAER)Page 4 ATTRA Food Miles: Background and Marketing
  5. 5. costs of food transport including accidents, Food system Fuel $ value of fuel CO2 emissions Distancenoise and congestion amount to over 9 and type of truck Consumption (gal/year) (current 2001 prices*) (lbs./year) traveled (miles)billion British pounds every year or 18 Conventionalbillion American dollars.(12) semitrailer 368,102 $581,601 8,392,727 2,245,423 Iowa regional 22,005 $35,208 501,714 134,230 semitrailerFood Miles and Energy Iowa regional 43,564 $69,702 993,243 370,289 midsize truckIs Local Food Less Energy Intensive? Iowa local -CSAProponents of reducing food miles often farmers market small truck (gas) 49,359 $78,974 967,436 848,981suggest that buying local food will reduce Iowa local insti-the amount of energy involved in the trans- tutional small 88,265 $141,224 1,729,994 1,518,155 truck (gas)portation process, as food sourced locallytravels shorter distances. The Leopold Cen- Fig.6: Estimated fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and distance traveled for conven- tional, Iowa-based regional, and Iowa-based local food systems for produce.ter for Sustainable Agriculture has con- Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.ducted several studies that compare the dis-tance traveled by conventional versus localfoods. Figure 5 (below), compiled by the from the conventional system used 4 to 17Leopold Center, compares food miles for times more fuel than the locally sourcedlocal versus conventional produce traveling food and emitted 5 to 17 times more CO2.(4)to Iowa. In all cases, the locally grown food The Leopold Center used this informationtravels a significantly shorter distance than to estimate the distance, fuel consumptionthe conventionally sourced food. and CO2 emissions that could potentially be saved by replacing 10% of the Iowa’s currentAnother study conducted by the Leopold food system with regional or locally sourcedCenter in 2001 investigated the distance food. This information is displayed inthat food traveled to institutional markets Figure 6 (above). It is interesting to notesuch as hospitals and restaurants in Iowa that when the transportation method wasusing three different food sources: conven- taken into account, the local food systemtional, Iowa-based regional and Iowa-based required more energy and emitted more CO2local. The study found that food sourced than the regional system. This is because the trucks supplying food locallyFig. 5: Food miles for local versus conventional produce. had a smaller capacity, there-Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. fore requiring more trips and Produce Type Locally grown Conventional Source Estimation logging more miles. WASD (miles) WASD (miles) Apples 61 1,726 It has been shown that local Beans 65 1,313 food systems do reduce food Broccoli 20 1,846 miles, which in turn tend to Cabbage 50 719 reduce energy consumption, Carrots 27 1,838 but there are exceptions. Corn, Sweet 20 1,426 Local transportation systems Garlic 31 1,811 may not always be as efficient Lettuce 43 1,823 as regional systems, depend- Onions 35 1,759 ing on the mode of transport Peppers 44 1,589 and load capacity. Potatoes 75 1,155 Pumpkins 41 311 Does Reducing Spinach 36 1,815 Squash 52 1,277 Food Miles Reduce Strawberries 56 1,830 Energy Use? Tomatoes 60 1,569 A Japanese group, Daichi- WASD -for all produce 56 1,494 o -Mam or u Kai ( T he Sum of all WASDs 716 25,301 Association to ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. uses less energy than housing and feeding animals.(14) The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released a report in 2005, which determined that food miles alone are not a valid indicator of the sustainability of the food system. In some cases, reducing food miles may reduce energy use, but there may be other social, environmental or economic trade-offs. The consequences of food transport are complex and require a group of indicators to deter- mine the global impact of food miles.(13) Life Cycle AssessmentCranberries loaded on truck for shipment. Photo by Earl J. Otis. Courtesy of USDA. There is increasing significance in consid- ering all stages of energy consumption in the Earth) conducted a study that found the food system. Many organizations have that a typical Japanese family could investigated the idea of life-cycle-based reduce their CO2emissions by 300 kilo- analysis to determine the sustainability of grams annually by eating locally.(13) The the food system. Canadian Waterloo Region study men- tioned above estimated that sourcing Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a method the 58 food items in the study locally and used to analyze the consumption and envi- regionally rather than globally could reduce ronmental burdens associated with a prod- greenhouse gas emissions by 49,485 tons uct. LCA takes into account energy input annually. This is the equivalent of removing and output involved in all stages of the life 16,191 vehicles from the road.(11) cycle including production, processing, packaging, transport and retirement. Life The food miles issue becomes even more cycle evaluation accounts for a matrix of complex when considering factors besides sustainability indicators beyond greenhouse distance traveled and mode of transpor- gas emissions, including resource deple- tation. The energy required to grow some tion, air and water pollution, human health foods in unsuitable climates may override impacts and waste generation. This method the energy of transporting food from loca- provides a more holistic approach to assess- tions where the food is more easily grown. ing the impact our food choices have on the For example, a Swedish study found that environment.(7) tomatoes traveling from Spain to Sweden were less energy intensive than tomatoes Life cycle assessments of various conven- raised in Sweden, because of the process by tional food products have found that the which they were grown. The Spanish toma- current food production and consumption toes were raised in the open ground, while patterns are unsustainable.(15) Adopt- the Scandinavian climate required tomatoes ing a “life cycle thinking” approach to to be raised in heated greenhouses utilizing food consumption would be a productive more fossil fuels.(4) method for increasing the sustainability of the food system. A New Zealand report found that export- ing some foods to the UK consumes less energy than producing the same food in What Producers Should Know the UK because the agricultural system in In general, the idea of reducing food miles New Zealand tends to use less fertilizer and is good news for producers. Reducing raises year round grass fed livestock, which energy costs equates to saving money andPage 6 ATTRA Food Miles: Background and Marketing
  7. 7. consumers who are reducing food miles help how to join or start a farmers’ market suc-to create local markets. There are many cessfully, see the ATTRA publication, Farm-ways of reducing the energy intensiveness ers’ Markets: Marketing and Business Guide.of your operation. Reducing fuel consump- Community supported agriculture (CSA)tion, maintaining equipment and assess- offers another option for marketing to aing field practices can have great impacts local or regional clientele. CSAs typicallythat will both reduce your energy use and have members that are “share-holders” insave you money. The ATTRA Farm Energy the farm, paying for the anticipated costsWeb pages contain a host of information of the farm operation. The ATTRA pub-about managing energy-related costs on lication Community Supported Agriculturethe farm. You will find links to farm energy contains information about production con-calculators, renewable energy informa- siderations and using the Internet as a meanstion and links to food miles resources. of information dissemination to members.For more information visit the Web site The number of farmers’ markets and CSAs has grown substantially over the last decade indicating both the potential of success for LMarketing the farmer and the growing demands of ife cycleFor producers, reducing food miles means consumers for fresh, local food. assessmentselling products to a more local or regionalmarket. While, this may be an intimidating (LCA) is aprospect for farmers who have no experience Farm-to-Institution Programs method used to ana-with alternative markets, the opportunities Selling food directly to schools, hospitals, lyze the consumptionare significant and diverse, including farm- prisons and other institutions is becoming and environmentalers’ markets, CSAs and farm-to-institution an increasingly popular option. Selling food to institutions creates a reliable market for burdens associatedprograms, all of which are looking for localproducers. The following sections briefly the farmer and provides great health and with a product.examine some of the markets and methods economic benefits to the consumer. Farm-to-available for a producer looking to reduce institution programs also reduce food miles.the energy involved in transporting food. The University of Montana’s Farm to College program estimated that replacing a year’sDirect Marketing supply of conventionally sourced hamburgers and French fries with local ingredients savedDirect marketing allows farmers to com- 43,000 gallons of fuel and the associatedpete with wholesale market channels and greenhouse gasses from being emitted.(16)mass supermarket systems, thereby creat- For more information about setting up a farm-ing a local food network and reducing the to-institution program in your area, see thedistance that food travels. Direct marketing ATTRA publication Bringing Local Foods tonetworks could include farmers’ markets, Local Institutions: A Resource Guide for Farm-wholesale food terminals and community- to-School and Farm-to-Institution Programs.supported agriculture. The ATTRA publi-cation Direct Marketing offers informationabout alternative marketing systems, with Ecolabelsan emphasis on value-added crops. Ecolabels offer one method for educating consumers about locally grown, sustainablyFarmers’ Markets and CSAs raised foods, and have proven effective in product marketing. An ecolabel is a seal orSelling produce at farmers’ markets is one a logo indicating that a product has met aalternative marketing strategy available for certain set of environmental and/or socialproducers. By removing brokers from the standards or attributes.distribution chain, farmers are able to reapa greater profit. Farmers’ markets also ben- The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agricul-efit community interaction and economic ture has researched the impact that labelingdevelopment. For more information about food with ecolabels containing ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. such as food miles and CO2 emissions has Consumer Considerations on consumers. The study aimed to deter- mine consumer opinion of locally produced Consumer Demand food and food miles. Surveys found that Producers may question the extent to consumers were more responsive to labels which consumers are using food miles as that focused on the food product’s fresh- a basis for their food choices. In general ness and quality rather than environmen- food choices are no doubt based on price, tal impact or CO2 emissions. Consumers taste and appearance and a large section of perceive that locally grown food is fresher; the public knows and cares little about cli- therefore ecolabels that contain information mate change, especially with regard to food such as “locally grown by family farmers” choices.(19) may be effective in influencing consumer food choices. The study also found that There has been increasing demand for food consumers are willing to pay more for food produced in accordance with ethical and that has low environmental impacts.(17) environmental standards, however, such as Figure 7 is an example of a food label organic and fair trade. Food mile concerns containing food miles information. may grow as well. Increasing food security and the domestic supply chain may be other arguments for reducing food miles. Why Consumers Should Care About Food Miles For consumers, convenience and cost are often driving factors when purchasing food. The choices consumers make, however, can have a great deal of influence on the direc- tion our food system is headed. Reducing the energy intensiveness of our food has several economic, social and environmental benefits. Consumers who are reducing their food mile footprint: • Enjoy fresher, healthier food • Support local farmers • Keep their money in the community • Know where their food comes fromFig. 7: Food miles ecolabel example.Source: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture • Reduce their carbon footprint Diet and Energy The Western Montana Sustainable Grow- Buying local and regional food is just one of ers Union is a group of 12 Missoula-area many dietary choices with important envi- organic farms that has developed the ronmental consequences. The FAO esti- “Homegrown” label, which informs con- mates that livestock are responsible for 18% sumers that the food item they are purchas- of global greenhouse gas emissions.(20) A ing was grown within 150 miles. Producers study at the University of Chicago compared in the group pledge “to grow naturally, pro- the energy consumption associated with tect air and water, maintain fair labor prac- animal-based diets versus plant-based diets tices and, most importantly, to sell and buy and found that consuming a typical Ameri- in their communities.” Groups such as this can diet of both animals and plants results are jumping up across the country and hav- in 1,485 kg more CO2 than a diet based on ing an impact on their markets.(18) plant sources only.Page 8 ATTRA Food Miles: Background and Marketing
  9. 9. This study concludes that “For a person natural gas and other fossil fuels, through aconsuming a red meat diet at 35% of calo- highly energy-intensive process, eliminatingries from animal sources, the added GHG synthetic fertilizer and pesticides can signifi-burden above that of a plant eater equals cantly reduce the amount of energy requiredthe difference between driving a Camry and for production. However, increased demandan SUV. These results clearly demonstrate for organics has resulted in retailers sourcingthe primary effect of one’s dietary choices organically grown food from around the globe,on one’s planetary footprint, an effect com- creating increased emissions in the trans-parable in magnitude to the car one chooses portation process. Some locally grown non-to drive.”(6) organic foods may be less energy intensive than organic foods traveling long distances.Local vs. Organic When evaluating our food options, the deci-There has been a great amount of public sions are complex, especially if you want tointerest over the last few years in organic make sustainable choices. Local, organic,food systems. This is an indication of con- fair-trade and other forms of sustainably pro-sumers’ increasing awareness of where their duced food all play a role in creating sustain-food is coming from. Organic food is grown able food consumption patterns. The follow-without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. ing table provides some guidelines for makingSince these chemicals are usually made from ethical food decisions. Reducing Food Miles: What Individuals Can Do • Learn what foods are in season in your area and try to build your diet around them. • Shop at a local farmers’ market. People living in areas without a farmers’ market might try to start one themselves, linking up with interested neighbors and friends and contacting nearby farmers and agricultural officials for help. People can do the same with CSA subscription schemes. • Eat minimally processed, packaged and marketed food. Generally speaking, the less processing and packaging you see, the less energy went into production and marketing, the less global warming pollution was created. • Ask the manager or chef of your favorite restaurant how much of the food on the menu is locally grown, and then encourage him or her to source food locally. Urge that the share be increased. People can do the same at their local supermarket or school cafeteria. • Consolidate trips when grocery shopping. Consider carpooling, public transportation, or a bike trailer for hauling groceries to reduce your personal contribution to food miles. • Take a trip to a local farm to learn what it produces. • Limit the amount of meat you consume and when you do buy meat, look for organic or free-range meat produced on sustainable farms. • Produce a local food directory that lists all the local food sources in your area, including CSA arrangements, farmers’ markets, food co–ops, restaurants emphasizing seasonal cuisine and local produce, and farmers willing to sell direct to consumers year-round. • Buy extra quantities of your favorite fruit or vegetable when it is in season and experiment with drying, canning, jamming, or otherwise preserving it for a later date. • Plant a garden and grow as much of your own food as possible. • Speak to your local politician about forming a local food policy council to help guide decisions that affect the local foodshed.Table 1. What individuals can do to reduce food miles. Adapted from Brian Halweil’s Home Grown: the Case for Local Food in a Global Market. ATTRA Page 9
  10. 10. Food Miles Tools fruits and vegetables rather than produce from conventional sources outside the state. Life Cycles Food Calculator The Life Cycles food calculator deter- home.htm mines the distance and amount of green- house gases saved if a certain food product Conclusion is bought locally as opposed to imported. Food miles are a growing cause of con- miles/inventory/add cern due to the greenhouse gas emis- sions released through the transportation Food Carbon Footprint Calculator of our food—and rightly so, as food miles A tool for residents within the UK to consume a considerable amount of energy. calculate their food carbon footprint to However, we must consider the many com- better understand the extent to which food plexities of the food system besides just decisions impact global warming. the distance our food is traveling. Other important issues include the mode of trans- portation, the production method, and pack- LCA Food Database aging considerations, as well as our own A tool for acquiring an aggregated description personal dietary choices. Each consumer of emissions, waste and the resource use from food decision provides an opportunity to soil to kitchen per unit of different food items. make a difference (large or small) in the way energy is used and greenhouse gases are emitted. At the same time, growing con- Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator sumer interest in local and regional foods This calculator was designed to help users is creating new marketing opportunities determine expanding markets in Iowa if and new possibilities for partnerships with consumers ate more locally grown fresh agricultural producers. Truck on highway near Petersburg, West Virginia. Photo by Ken Hammond. Courtesy of USDA.Page 10 ATTRA Food Miles: Background and Marketing
  11. 11. References 10) Xureb, Marc. 2005. Food Miles: Environmen- tal Implication of Food Imports to Waterloo Region. United States Department of Agriculture. 1998. A marketing_ files/foodmiles_Canada_1105.pdf Time to Act: A Report on the USDA National 11) Whitlegg, J. 1993. Transport for a Sustainable Future: Commission on Small Farms. www.csrees.usda. The Case for Europe. Bellhaven Press, London. gov/nea/ag_systems/pdfs/time_to_act_1998.pdf 12) Smith, A. et al. 2005. The Validity of Food Miles2) Halweil, Brian. 2006. Food Democracy: Nourishing as an Indicator of Sustainable Development. a Fundamental Freedom. Heifer International Oxon, United Kingdom: Department of Envi- World Ark. Jan/Feb 2006: 6-13. ronment, Food, and Rural Affairs. 8638-47F3-A6DB-68BE45A16EDC%7D/ foodmiles/execsumm.pdf ’06%20JAN.FEB%20WORLD%20ARK.PDF 13) Kyodo News. March 2, 2005. Biztrend:3) Halweil, Brian. 2002. Home Grown: The Case for Consumption of Local Food Helps Cut CO2 Local Food in a Global Market. Emissions. =F2TNews&method=view&id=2624) Pirog, Rich, et al. 2001. Food Fuel, and Freeways: 14) Saunders, Caroline, et al. 2006. Food Miles Com- An Iowa Perspective on How Far Food Travels, parative Energy/Emissions Performance of Fuel Usage, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. New Zealand’s Agriculture Industry. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Miles%20Executive%20Summary.doc5) Horrigan, Leo, et al. 2002. How Sustainable Agri- 15) Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika. 1998. Climate change and dietary choices – how can emis- culture can Address the Environment and sions of greenhouse gases from food consump- Human Health Harms of Industrial Agricul- tion be reduced? http://seminar.mannlib.cornell. ture. Environmental Health Perspectives. May edu/topics/food_security/resources/FS01.pdf 2002: 445-456. 2002/110p445-456horrigan/EHP110p445PDF.PDF 16) Hassanein, Neva, et al. 2007. Tracing the Chain: An in Depth Look at the University of Mon-6) Eshel, Gidon and Pamela Martin. 2005. Diet, tana’s Farm to College Program. Energy and Global Warming. University of Chicago, Department of Geophysical Sciences. chain_e_summary_new.pdf nutri3.pdf 17) Pirog, Rich, et al. 2003. Ecolabel Value Assessment: Consumer and Food Business7) Heller, Martin C., and Gregory A. Keoleian. Life Perceptions of Local Foods. www.leopold. Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S. Food System. Ann 18) Sooter, Tad. 2006. Western Montana Growers Arbor, MI: Center for Sustainable Systems, Go Beyond Organics and Get Local. University of Michigan, 2000: 42. Report No. CSS00-04. bringing_organics_home/ papers/FoodSystemSustainability.pdf 19) Garnett, T. 2003. Wise moves. Exploring the rela-8) Murray, Danielle. 2005. Oil and Food: A Ris- tionship between food, road transport and ing Security Challenge. CO2. Transport2000. Updates/2005/Update48.htm ClearingHouse/docfiles/wise_moves.pdf9) Pirog, Rich. 2002. How Far Do Your Fruit 20) Steinfield, Henning et al. 2006. Livestock’s Long and Vegetables Travel? Leopold Center for Shadow: Environmental issues and options. Sustainable Agriculture. www.leopold.iastate. edu/pubs/staff/ppp/food_chart0402.pdf longshad/ ATTRA Page 11
  12. 12. Food Miles: Background and Marketing By Holly Hill NCAT Research Specialist © 2008 NCAT This publication is available on the Web at: or IP312 Slot 311 Version 010708Page 12 ATTRA