Food miles is a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. It is one dimension used in assessing the environmental impact of food. The concept of food miles originated in 1990 in the United Kingdom. It was conceived by Andrea Paxton, who wrote a research paper that discussed the fact that food miles are the distance that food travels from the farm it is produced on to the kitchen in which it is being consumed.
The term ‘food miles’ is also attributed to Dr Tim Lang in 1990, professor of food policy at London’s City University.
Due to increasing concerns about climate change, more people considering the impact that everyday goods – including food – have on the environment.
Food miles in the United Kingdom
Half the vegetables and 95 per cent of the fruit eaten in the United Kingdom is imported from other countries.
A significant proportion of imported food arrives by plane – and air travel gives off more CO2 than any other form of transport. Agriculture and food account for nearly 30 per cent of goods trucked around Britain’s roads and, according to a Government report in 2005, the resulting road congestion, accidents and pollution cost the country £9bn a year.
Cars are responsible for 20 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions from food transport.
Food miles in Australia
A study conducted revealed that food items like oranges, sausages, tea, baked beans with ingredients sourced from overseas have seen more of the world than most people. The report estimates that the total distance travelled by 29 of our most common food items is 70,803 km, which is is nearly two times the distance around the Earth.
Calculating road transport alone, our shopping basket has still travelled 21,073km, almost the whole way around Australia’s coastline. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions estimate for all food transporting trucks carrying one shopping basket of 25 items on any given day is the equivalent of 2,830 cars driving for a whole year.
The research was conducted by CERES and was sponsored by the Finkel Foundation with the aim to develop a food education program that will inform and empower primary and secondary students through their food choices.
Reducing food miles
Action you can take to reduce food miles impacts include:
- Shop locally, using public transport, walk or ride a bike
- Buy products that are grown locally and are in season
- Avoid buying imported food products
- Grow your own food such as herbs, fruit and vegetables.
- Food Miles in Australia: A preliminary study of Melbourne, Victoria, CERES
- Wikipedia:Food miles
- Food Miles Cafe Opens In Melbourne, Pigs Will Fly, the can do community blog.