Comment loin voyage-t-il votre nourriture?

Aujourd'hui, plusieurs supermarchés conventionnels offrent une vaste sélection d'aliments certifiés biologiques. Toutefois, au Canada 80% des produits bio sont importés alors que les producteurs bio locaux se débattent pour obtenir une part du marché. Nos aliments ont souvent dû voyager longuement pour arriver jusqu'à notre table. Il serait intéressant de connaître le coût des transports de ces aliments; quels sont les coûts de ces longs voyages? Temma Frecker lance le défi à ses lecteurs de se préparer un repas avec seulement des produits locaux.

How Far Does Your Food Travel?
Eating your way to a healthy environment, community and body

Temma Frecker
September 2006
 

l.gif (280 bytes)ast night for supper, I had pork chops cooked over an open fire with steamed Swiss chard, peas, and carrots in a butter and savoury sauce and a side of turnip and onions roasted in maple syrup and fresh oregano. So, "What does enjoying such a scrumptious meal have to do with the environment?" you ask. Well, every ingredient, right down to the butter and maple syrup, came from our garden or from nearby organic farmers.

A couple years ago, organic produce was relegated to the realm of health food stores and farmers' markets. Now, many mainstream supermarkets offer a wide range of certified organic choices. The retail market for organics in Canada is worth an estimated $300-750 million and is growing at an average rate of 15% a year. At first glance, this seems great…until you stop to consider where that food has come from. Eighty percent of organics in Canada is imported, while local organic producers are fighting for their market share. As illustrated in the graph, 49% of organics in Canada are sold at mass market outlets (such as supermarkets), 48% at specialty stores, and only 3% at farmers' markets.

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(Photo: Temma Frecker)

Many people in the organics movement go by the mantra "Buy Local, Buy Organic." Next time you fill your grocery bag, consider how far your food has traveled, and calculate the "Food Miles" accumulated from field to plate. Then, consider the environmental impact of that journey. How many non-renewable resources were used and greenhouse gases emitted to bring that banana from Costa Rica compared to that apple from the family farm just outside of town? A report by Food Share Toronto, Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer's Market, (www.organicconsumers.org/) compares Food Miles for local and imported food. In one example, half a kilogram of local lamb generated only seven grams of carbon dioxide through transportation, while the same amount of lamb from New Zealand produced over eight kilograms of carbon dioxide - over 1000 times the emissions! Now, here comes the best part about buying local produce: in addition to reducing your impact on the environment, you can make a valuable contribution to the economy of your community by supporting local farmers. 


(photo: Leland Daugherty)

The question of local vs. imported becomes more complicated when the choice before you is a bag of organic carrots from California or a bunch of carrots that were grown locally but are not organic. Ask yourself how the produce got there. Greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre are highest for air travel, second only to truck transport. What is the environmental impact of the 5000 km (or more) drive from California to New Brunswick? What are the environmental and health impacts of consuming non-organic produce? Which purchase will make a greater contribution to my community? These are all questions that I struggle with. While I don't have the answer, I urge you to make an informed choice and be more aware of the complexity of the situation. Also, let your supermarket know that you would like to see more local produce on the shelves, especially organics. Let your local farmers know that you would be willing to pay a premium for organic produce. Put your money where your mouth (and stomach) is.

What's available from local producers that I can put on my table?

When we put the words "New Brunswick" and "Agriculture" together, the first thing that comes to mind is the glorious spud. However, the bounty of produce this province has to offer is amazing: fresh fruits and vegetables, dried beans and herbs, preserves and jams, meat, milk, eggs, locally roasted coffee, flour and grains, maple syrup…even seeds and compost to start your own garden! Buying locally cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing food miles and supports local farmers. If you want to go that extra step for your health and the health of the environment, go organic and buy local. Check out the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network website (www.acornorganic.org ) for a listing of organic producers and retailers in Atlantic Canada. Tourism New Brunswick also has a list of farmers' markets at http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/.


Oh the bounty: Fresh organic produce available at your local farmers' market!
(Photo: Andrea Berry)

So here is my challenge to you: create a meal using all local products!

You can make bread using flour from Speerville Mills, throw together a salad from your garden, pick up some veggies and meat from the farmers' market, and head to a U-Pick berry farm for a sweet after-dinner treat. Join people all over the world in taking the 100 Mile Challenge, consuming only food grown within a 100 mile radius from the dinner table. Take the challenge for a week, and maybe incorporate it into your routine. Taste the difference, feel the difference, and know that you are reducing your ecological footprint at the same time. Your body will thank you, the earth will thank you, and your local farmers will too.

References

Bentley, Stephen & Ravenna Barker. Fighting Global Warming at the Farmer's Market: The Role of Local Food Systems In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. A FoodShare Research in Action Report, Second Edition, Toronto. April 2005. www.organicconsumers.org/environment/ACF230.pdf

Connell, Bev & R. Gary Morton. Atlantic Canadian Organic Market Study: Transforming Market Potentials into Market Realities. ACORN. Nova Scotia. January 2003. www.acornorganic.org/marketplace.html