How Far has Your Dinner Travelled?
The term 'food miles' wasn't heard of until very recently. Now we have heard of it, it is important to make sure that we act on our new found knowledge.
A food mile refers to the distance our ingredients have travelled from field to plate, but we must also take other necessary factors into consideration to get the full picture. The reason that food miles are a concern is that transport equals CO2 emissions, which are damaging to the environment.
The other factors include the method of transportation, the required refrigeration of the products, the storage facilities used. Agriculture and food transportation is responsible for over 30 % of the vehicles on the roads in the UK, so not only does reducing your food miles help the environment, it could also make your journeys less stressful.
Centralised Supermarket FacilitiesThe increase in centralised facilities for supermarket chains have had a great impact on the food miles your dinner will have travelled as products tend to be processed in one location for the whole chain. These centralised facilities include services such as refrigeration, slaughter, distribution and storage, so even if a product is made locally, it may be transported to and stored at a different part of the country before being transported back to your local supermarket.
Food miles also come from the food processing industry. Goods are transported from factory to factory, with each different part of the process being undertaken at a different location.
The Food Processing TruthThere are a number of rather dreadful practices common in the food processing industry - when you buy a bag of peeled prawns in the supermarket, it is likely they will have been fished in the seas off the north of Scotland, transported by road to a centralised freezing depot in the UK, transported by air to China to be peeled, as labour costs are far cheaper, then flown back to the UK to be packaged.
The peeled prawns will then be taken by road to a centralised frozen storage facility until they are distributed to the supermarkets.
If you think that the supermarkets that the box of peeled prawns ends up in could be in Scotland, not far from where they were caught and where there is an ever decreasing fishing industry, with more and more unemployment in the processing sector, it is really is heartbreaking.
Meat products and livestock are also transported unnecessarily due to the centralised facilities that have become popular. Live animals can have to endure hours penned in lorries, being taken to slaughter houses many miles away from their farms. The closure of many local slaughter houses and a dramatic increase in regulations have meant that supermarkets are looking for the most cost effective method of providing their stores with meat, which is rarely the most environmental, responsible or animal-friendly approach.
Why Not Eat Local and Seasonal?The fruit and vegetables in your dinner will also have travelled a far distance - the UK imports 95% of fruit bought and 50% of vegetables. Considering that there are a number of delicious British, Scottish and Welsh varieties of apples, strawberries, asparagus and leeks, to name but a few, it is crazy that we do not embrace and enjoy our local, seasonal produce.
The UK government aims to reduce the environmental and social cost of the UK food transportation by 20% by 2010.