A simple term that not many people have heard of – yet, is extremely important in the food industry. Food miles refers to the amount of miles your food has traveled from where it was grown to where it reaches you, is purchased by you or is consumed by you. Whether it’s a mango from Peru, an avocado from Mexico or vegetables from across the country, your food may be spending some major airtime just to get into your grocery cart.

A lot of the time you may see a label on your food from another country and not think twice about it, maybe you even think “hey, grapes from California are probably amazing because it’s wine country over there!” – but, realistically this travel time, storage time, transportation time and processing time can have some serious effects on your health and our climate.

Photo credit: The Lexicon of Sustainability


There are a lot of questions raised with food miles such as:

  • Is the food treated with any chemicals or hormonal products to grow them larger or faster than usual? I mean… just think about what the cow or chicken is eating – if they are fed anything that isn’t natural to them or given any steroids that means you are putting these in your body as well.
  • How has the product been packaged – what has it come into contact with? Is it being protected while it’s traveled or out in the open?
  • How long was it between the food being packaged and shipped? Not only is your food traveling to you, but it may also have a waiting period between when it was picked, packaged and shipped.
  • What is the quality of the air conditions and emissions while products are being transported?

Health Effects

According to Food-Hub and the Natural Resource Defense Council,

“Today, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.”

Would you feed your family products from all over the world if you knew the actual conditions these products went through? These are all fairly obvious questions to ask – and, scary as well.

Food that has traveled via truck, plane, ship, or bus result in having fewer nutrients for the body and less flavor. Vitamins stored in the products are loss due to temperature changes, time changes and light. And, by the time it gets to you the product may not even be very ripe.

Environmental Effects

Another crazy thought is the effect food miles has on our economy and world pollution. Food Hub states,

“Imports by airplane have a substantial impact on global warming pollution. In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”

Is that really the environmental price we want to pay for asparagus, berries, rice, cherries… you get the idea. What is the obvious solution to this issue? Grow your own food, support your local farms by purchasing their produce, fruit, vegetables, bread and more. Ask questions, find the source of your food, it’s food miles and ask local farmers about their treatment process.


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