Food distribution is one of the reasons for a creation of a big ecological footprint. The reason of this post is to familiarize the readers of what ecological footprint is and understand the advantages and disadvantages of distant and local food production and distribution.
Ecological footprint is the level of impact that humans have on their environment. Moreover, it is the measure of human’s usage of Earth’s natural resources and the Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself. Ecological footprints among countries vary due to the country’s possession of natural resources, industrial development and technological advantages. Few causes that contribute to a big ecological footprint are unsustainable usage of the country’s natural resources such as deforestation; high urbanization; high and non-recycling waste generation, etc.
Food produced at distant places spends much more energy and time then locally produced food. They travel a long road before they are sold, involving the use of significantly more energy for packing, shipping, distributing and selling. By spending more energy, I mean spending much more gas for transportation, machines for packing and money for the labor force.
Food distribution and cost in America
As food production became more industrialized during the 20th century, several trends emerged. One trend was a loss in the number of varieties of crops grown. A second trend was the increasing amount of energy expended to store food and ship it to market. In some countries food may travel long distances to reach the market. In the U.S. today, food travels an average of 1,400 miles from the field to the table. The price American pay for the food covers the cost of this long-distance transportation, which in 2004 was approximately only one dollar per mile (1.6 km).
Assuming that you are an American (not all of us are in this class), you live in New York City (2009 population estimate 8,363,710), and that the average American eats 1 kg (2 pounds) of food per day, calculate the food transportation costs for each category in the table below (U.S. 2009 population estimates 307,006,550).
|Consumer||Daily Cost||Annual cost|
|Your town (New York)||$11,708,970||$4,273,774,050|
Challenges faced by long-distance food distribution
According to the information and data above, there are specific challenges of economic sustainability that we face, by the long-distance food distribution system. One of the challenges of environmental sustainability could be the quality of the food. Since it travels for long distances, the food can rot. However, technology has developed, so genetic modifications are done on the food. Furthermore, to increase the quality of the food and extend its durability, numerous fertilizers are used. These fertilizers affect negatively on the soil, creating a non-cautious usage of the soil.
Moreover, money, gas and energy are spent on the food transportation. Much of the energy spend on packing and delivering the food, could be spend on the local food distribution which would be more advantageous for the local population.
Also, the food distribution is not equal. Many societies grow the food, but they never get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The food is taken and brought to our supermarkets where we can enjoy and consume much more than we need. Governments should introduce policies to solve issues of equal food distribution.
Local versus global food production
A study by Pirog and Benjamin (2003) noted that locally produced food in the U.S. traveled only 80 kilometers (appx 50miles) or so to the market, thus saving 96% of the transportation costs. Locally grown foods may be fresher and cause less environmental impact as they are brought to market, but what are the disadvantages to you as a consumer in relying on local food production?(4)
I believe that local food production is much better and its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. The food is fresher and the transportation costs much less. However, the number of local food distribution decreases, so we are depended and have to buy our food from the supermarkets. Buying food from the supermarket has its advantages because it saves people time. Moreover, supermarkets offer much greater variety of flavors and products. However, we, the consumers, don’t know the process of each food production and we are fooled by the advertisements. The process of production does not always go according to the appropriate standards and there have been many cases where food corporations have misled the people.
Personally, I think that local food production is much more reliable and healthy. However, since we live in a globalized society where everything, in great variety, is served on our tables, it is hard to change people’s lifestyle and limit their needs and wants on a more modest local food production. I think that the advantages of local food production outweigh its disadvantages of food, due to more freshness and familiarization of the product’s quality.
Gasoline prices are constantly increasing, what is next?
The gas prices have increased over time. They have increased for almost a dollar in a year. Since the prices are going up, the transportation of food would be more expensive and maybe slow down the delivery of food, in some poorer places. In the past years due to increased gas-prices, many markets were left without food supplies for even few days.
Comparison between America and Greece in gas prices
America is a country with large ecological footprint. This means that the USA’s demand for gas is higher than other countries, so the price of the gas is increased. In Greece currently the price of the gas moves around 2.46 dollars, which means that the price here is slightly cheaper. I don’t think there is a major difference between the gas prices in the two countries, so the application of the figures is similar.
(1) Burpee Gardens. “Vegetable truck”. Retrieved April 13 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/burpee/167742956/.
(2) “BBC – Religion & Ethics – In Pictures: The Ethical Consumer.” BBC – Homepage. Retrieved 13 Apr. 2011 from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/galleries/consumerwaste/>.
(3) “U.S. Retail Gasoline Prices.” Retail Gassoline Prices. Retrieved 13 Apr. 2011 from http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_home_page.html .
(4) Pirog, R., and Benjamin, A. (2003). Checking the food odometer. Comparing food miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions. Ames, IA: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.
(5) “Hedge Funds Gasoline | FavStocks.” Stock Market Analysis and Your Favorite Stocks. Retrieved 15 Apr. 2011 from <http://www.favstocks.com/hedge-funds-gasoline/1012522/>.