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Food Miles

Graphic: Ron Mader, Food Miles

Food miles = The distance food is transported from production to consumer or paddock to plate.

As consumers around the world become aware of the carbon footprint of their travels and purchases, a new term has appeared. Introducing food miles which track the journey food takes from the farm to the table along with the carbon emissions that are created. Increasingly in Europe labels on food items show food miles.

The concept is not without debate and we will explore this topic further. Comments welcome below.


Labels on food items show the distance that food travels from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer and its accompanying contribution to environmental pollution. This is not the same as a carbon footprint, which are measured by the amount of CO2 produced, and the total energy used, to get the product to market.

A July 2006 report from New Zealand’s Lincoln University has shown that taking into account the environmental cost of transporting goods to the UK, New Zealand uses considerably less energy than the UK in the production of sheep meat (NZ is four times as efficient), dairy (NZ is twice as efficient) and apples.

These debates continue. On the positive side, paying attention to food miles makes us aware of what food is local. Introducing another new word – localvores — people whose diet is based on what is produced within a 100-mile or 100-kilometer radius.




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