Arts, Culture & Media

From field to kitchen

(We've got a bunch of bananas, what's it's going to take them to get from South America to my lunch?) Bananas are one of those foods which can be picked green and comes from Central America and arrives by boat, which is more efficient in a carbon footprint way than diesel truck actually. (So bananas would land where and then travel by what means?) They would first travel by ship and land either at the American south or east coasts and then they'd take a trip by diesel truck and that's where the bulk of carbon emissions come from. (What about beef? There's two kinds: feedlot beef and then grass fed cows.) it depends on where they're coming from. The key thing is we get too hung up on the mode of transportation for food and there's a lot of confusion about carbon footprints. On one level it's kind of simple: you can eat from a food chain that's based on solar energy, or you can eat from one that's based on fossil fuel energy. So if you're eating beef that has been raised on grass, wherever it's raised, that is a solar based food chain: the sun feeds the grass, the grass feeds the cow, and the cow feeds us. so you're getting your calories of energy from the sun and so the footprint is light. But compare that to feedlot beef, which is grown by a diet dominated by corn. The corn is grown mostly by fossil fuels. (Is it a luxury for us to be thinking about food miles?) I don't think it's a luxury because this is a worldwide problem. We should teach people about good sources of fertility so many people can grow their own food. The sooner we can separate our food systems from our energy systems the better we will be and the less hunger we'll see. (Who are the winners as food prices rise?) the winners are those who handle grain, the middle men, just like the oil companies. And there will be farmers who are winners too.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)