“Food Miles” and Their Effects on the Environment

The article I am researching for my topic is titled “Food, Fuel, and Freeways:
An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions.” There are four experimenters from three organizations. One is a student at Iowa State, another is an assistant professor at Northern Iowa, and the last two are from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. In this article, the four experimenters are testing to see if locally grown food is actually better for you, based on carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. The bulk of their experiment is testing the “food miles” of each kind of food. The food miles are the number of miles it takes to get the food from where it is grown to the market where it is sold to the public.

One of the methods they used in this experiment was the LCA, or Life Cycle Assessment. This process is used for performing integral analysis of the environmental impacts of products throughout their “life cycle.” They found that apples have about an average of 23 MJ/kg energy consumption, while ground beef got up to as much as 65 MJ/kg.

train
(Picture taken from grist.org)

The results of the experiment were as follows: The conventional food system’s semitrailers had 17 times higher fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions compared with the 2 semitrailers in the Iowa-based regional system, and 8.5 times higher fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions than the midsize trucks in the Iowa-based regional system. The conventional food system’s semitrailers traveled 17 times farther than the semitrailers in the Iowa-based regional system, and it was six times farther than the midsize trucks in the regional system.

In conclusion, the local food systems emitted much more carbon (about 17 times worth) than the regional semitrailers.

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