How long does it take for my food to get from the farm to the grocery store?
Unless you are shopping at your local farmers market, and depending where in the country you live, produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate. Nowadays, it is not only tropical food such as sugar, coffee, chocolate, tea and bananas that are shipped long distances to come to our tables, but also fruits and vegetables that once grew locally, in household gardens and on small farms.
A major study, “Food, Fuel, and Freeways” by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa, compiled data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find out how far produce traveled to a Chicago “terminal market,” where brokers and wholesalers buy produce to sell to grocery stores and restaurants. The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market compared these figures to their own figures to give you an idea of the difference:
Terminal Market vs. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
- Apples: 1,555 miles vs. 105 miles
- Tomatoes: 1,369 miles vs. 117 miles
- Grapes: 2,143 miles vs. 151 miles
- Beans: 766 miles vs. 101 miles
- Peaches: 1,674 miles vs. 184 miles
- Winter Squash: 781 miles vs. 98 miles
- Greens: 889 miles vs. 99 miles
- Lettuce: 2,055 miles vs. 102 miles
While the 1,500 miles may be used to help simplify all of the complexities used to estimate miles traveled from farm to table, new studies show that in some cases it can actually be more environmentally responsible to produce food far from home. According to a 2006 report from New Zealand's Lincoln University, it is four times more energy efficient for Londoners to buy New Zealand lamb, which is grass-fed and shipped halfway around the world, than to buy lamb raised on grain in England.