OK, the following dilemma doesn’t actually concern you if you are a vegetarian, but the hidden environmental costs of the supermarket culture and neatly put into focus when you look at the comparison of the exotic banana, shipped or even flown to the UK from tropical climes, and a lamb chop from Fred the Farmer round the corner. Mike Berners-Lee, a leading expert on the carbon cost of food based at Lancaster University, has a well earned reputation for understanding the complexity of food miles and his analysis often surprises consumers who are interested in understanding the true environmental cost of food. So what of the banana and the lamb chop? Well, provided the banana is transported in bulk and eaten raw it would actually have a lower carbon footprint than the UK farmed lamb – which would have a carbon footprint from the farming activities themselves, from the methane gas emitted by the sheep during its life, and the carbon cost in cooking the lamb. Still, there are some simple guidelines which usually hold true if you care about the environmental impact of your food: avoid all air freighted food; Buy what is in season and grown locally: if you must buy imported food then only buy food that has been transported by ship; choose food grown in natural climates (not in greenhouses). reduce dairy and meat consumption; eat what you buy and don’t throw away food if you can help – a third of all our food is thrown away. And watch those food miles shrink away!
Picture: Ben Challis