August 13, 2007

Food Miles

I realize this New York Times article is several days old, but alas, this is the first moment I've had to sit down and write about it. Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand set out to challenge Europe's new food miles labeling system. Those New Zealanders have lamb to sell, after all. Turns out, according to their study, that lamb traveling all the way from New Zealand to England has a smaller carbon footprint than lamb grown in England. Why? Because New Zealand lamb is completely grass fed, English lamb must be fed, well, feed. And feeding feed (usually corn and soy) to ruminants emits a lot of carbon dioxide.

Head to head, New Zealand lamb wins. So is this the end of the locavore movement? Hardly.

It's a reminder that local doesn't just mean "grown nearby." It also means grown or raised in a sustainable manner and consumed in season. And it means that in order to reduce our carbon footprint, maybe not everyone gets to eat lamb once a week. Lamb is after all, a spring animal.

It's also a reminder of the cost of feeding our animals, and ultimately ourselves, a diet to which they and we are not adapted.

We're at the very beginning of a long road in which we will have to rediscover how to feed ourselves sustainably. Part of it will have to involve the transport of food to locations that do not produce year-round.

I recognize that I'm uniquely spoiled in my Northern California home. You might catch me griping about all the greens we have to eat in winter, but I know that we are damn lucky to live somewhere that produces vegetables year-round. It's easy to to eat local when your own food shed has a constant supply.

So what about places that are frozen a good part of the year? Where animals need feed to supplement grass (as they do in Northern California)? I don't have answers, but I am so happy that we are asking the questions.


Miche said...

The article brings up so many of the same questions that I have had during my food/eating 'awakening' over the past 12 months or so. Thank you for posting it! The questions, and possible solutions, raised by the author are exactly the dialog that more of us need to be talking about. The whole scenario is kind of mind-spinning, but I won't let that dissuade me from plugging along and doing what I think or have learned is the better option when it comes to shopping for food.

Kelly Mahoney said...

Oh my, too many greens in the winter? What a predicament :)

MissEm said...

Amen sister! ;)