The cost of “non-local” food
A while ago, I was asked to write some entries for an Encyclopaedia of Corporate Social Responsibility. I enjoyed this and the research behind the writing. One of the terms I wrote about was Local Food. Without repeating the definition verbatim, local food is basically food grown within a local area. But what exactly is local? Town, region, state, country or what? That’s the hard part.
The image to your right shows some nice juicy strawberries. When I was a kid, we had these as treats from about May to July. And they are a treat, once in season and local. But now I can get strawberries at Christmas – but they taste c**p usually and come from many miles away. This is definitely not local food.
Bringing consumers year round fruit (and other food types) is an expensive and difficult business. An article in the November edition of National Geographic gives some idea. Yes the example is US based, but it has some hard facts. The article follows the 3,200 mile journey of strawberries from California to Washington DC. The berries are grown on large-scale farms and over 500 trucks a day can be involved on just one farm. The retail value of each truckload is $90,000, and fuel for each truck costs $2,700. Total journey time is 80 hours, for which a driver must be paid etc, and think about the wear and tear of the truck. This is hardly a local food example I would argue, and it easy to see the money involved. And I’m not even starting on the true cost, which includes costs of large-scale farming (pesticide run-off for example) and CO2 emissions.