Food miles refer to the concept that the mileage of food before it reaches the consumer (or the plate) is a potential indicator for the environmental impact of the food and its components. However, it is based on several serious mistakes or omissions:
- Transport is only one component of the total environmental impact of food production and consumption. E.g.
- environmental impact of transport depends on type of transport, and also on the bulk of the food, and the nature of the packing. If a commodity such as grain is sent by ship, it may actually use less fuel than is used transporting it by truck within the country of destination.
See the Wikipedia article, especially the section Criticism of food miles.
However, if a very low carbon impact diet is desired, then the impact of food transport will be a critical factor, and local food will have some advantages in the calculations, where it is practiced sustainably.
Food miles and the poor
One reason to why some are critical about this was the probable impact : a loss of income to poor farmers. See Food miles and the poor by Owen Barder.
Most farmers are positioned close to many potential customers of all classes and incomes. If they sell only to their local markets it will in most cases be enough to support themselves.
- Compare the environmental impact of locally grown and imported food; look at the impact of eating different types of food as a part of the total diet.[expansion needed]
- Compare with the transport method that customers use to go to the shop and back home. If they are using car when they buy groceries it can be a much larger portion of environmental impact than the actual miles of transport of the groceries up to the shelves in the shop.[expansion needed]
- Research and compare existing heated green houses and what other use they do with the extra heat energy. One example is in Sweden where a ethanol factory sends their heat to a tomato grower, and then their extra heat goes to a residential home. Research on other potential practical uses to combine different uses of same heat energy in a small local grid.[expansion needed]
- http://www.locavore365.org Website that encourages eating locally produced and sustainable food produce. Allows search by distance for local food produce from anywhere in the world