Tag Archives: local eating

How Much Does Buying Local Food Really Matter?

I came across an article in the New York Times over the weekend about the real costs of food transportation. The overall point is that eating local foods may not be making as much of an impact as you think, because transporting it from one state to another can be more efficient in terms of energy use than growing it locally, especially if a heated greenhouse is needed to grow it.

The article makes some very good points, such as the fact that the energy to grow the produce is a bigger part of the energy cost than transporting it to the store. The energy cost from the store to your home is also usually one of the bigger costs – depending on where you live in relation to the store and how you get there, of course.

Then there’s refrigeration and preparation. Having food and preparing it to eat can add quite a bit to the energy used in dealing with that food.

I can’t say all of it works for me. The argument about the greenhouse simply points up that you should eat foods in season. Produce in season won’t need a greenhouse. There’s energy saved right there.

I’ll grant that cutting back on food miles is only a small impact. The size of the impact isn’t the point. It’s decreasing the environmental impact of your food in the ways available to you. That it’s small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

The article says that transportation is about 14% of the energy used in the American food system. Why shouldn’t we try to decrease that number? It’s one of the areas where a decrease is possible.

Fortunately, the article does admit that there are some benefits to eating locally. Not very specifically, but at least the author isn’t entirely against it and just wants people to really think before they eat local. That’s a good thing.

Does It Matter Where Your Food Comes From?

Eating local is a big buzzword right now. The idea is to cut back on carbon emissions. But this report on Discovery shows that it’s not so much where your food comes from, it’s what you’re eating.

From the article:

transporting food from the farm or production site to the store contributed only 4 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. food supply, while producing the food accounted for 83 percent.

That’s taking into consideration more than just carbon production. Carbon dioxide isn’t the only problem we’re dealing with here, after all.

So what should you do?

Well, just what you’d expect. The article says that red meat produces about 2.5 times the amount of greenhouse gases than any chicken or pork. So the more you cut back on beef, the more impact you’re having.

Fine by me. I’m not ready to become a vegetarian, but I already prefer chicken to beef anyhow.

If you’re wondering about the groupings, here’s more from the article:

Dairy products come in second in greenhouse impact in most of the team’s analyses, since they also come from cows. Cereals and carbohydrates; chicken, fish and eggs; and fruits and vegetables were similar to each other in their contributions.

Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go local; there’s nothing wrong with decreasing those aspects you can control. But it brings up the very good point that there are bigger things you should be thinking about too.