Monday, August 06, 2007

Contrarian Findings

I'm a big supporter of the "Buy Local" philosophy, especially when it comes to food. Having most recently lived in New York, Massachusetts, and California, this is an easy philosophy to live by and to preach, I'll admit.

Many of the reasons to prefer local produce still obtain, but the new one -- to reduce carbon emissions caused by shipping food long distances -- doesn't necessarily. Have a look at James E. McWilliams's piece, "Food That Travels Well." Lots of surprises, including this one example:

… lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

Now, the radical greens among us will say that we shouldn't eat anything if we can't grow it nearby. There's something to this, when considering luxury items, but I'm really not ready to give up, say, tangerines, at least not yet. Besides, McWilliams's article demonstrates how such a stance is really not practical for most of the world's population in any case. A fascinating piece.

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