Food miles are determined by estimating the distance food has traveled to get to your plate. This generates more decision making: Are organic bananas really worth the cost of the jet fuel that carried them from Peru? Does an apple grown a few hundred miles away taste better than one grown 2,000 miles away? Is it better to support the local garlic farmer or the one in China?
—Kim Severson, "Food miles," The New York Times, December 24, 2006
Obviously it makes sense to choose a product that has been grown locally over an identical product shipped in from afar. But such direct comparisons are rare. And it turns out that the apparently straightforward approach of minimising the "food miles" associated with your weekly groceries does not, in fact, always result in the smallest possible environmental impact.
The term "food mile" is itself misleading, as a report published by DEFRA, Britain's environment and farming ministry, pointed out last year. A mile travelled by a large truck full of groceries is not the same as a mile travelled by a sport-utility vehicle carrying a bag of salad. Instead, says Paul Watkiss, one of the authors of the DEFRA report, it is more helpful to think about food-vehicle miles (ie, the number of miles travelled by vehicles carrying food) and food-tonne miles (which take the tonnage being carried into account).
—"Voting with your trolley," The Economist, December 9, 2006
—Joanna Blythman, "Eat local and sever the food chains," The Independent, October 23, 1993
farm to fork