Eating Local: Top Tips to Reduce Your Food Miles

Food miles? "You may be thinking what on earth is that! Does our food get frequent flyer miles?" While sadly our food can't give you money off your next flight, it does indeed have miles, that is the number of miles our food has travelled to get from farm to fork.

The reality of living in the UK is that our weather isn't great a lot of the time and certainly isn't often hot enough to grow the wide range of foods we are used to seeing in our supermarkets, so many of our foods are imported. With Brexit looming and our trade deals hanging in the balance, food may be one are where we see a significant impact, as we currently have many trade relationships with European countries for lots of the fruits and vegetables that we like to eat.

95% of our fruit and around half of our vegetables are imported. Eating local, home grown food all the time is difficult, but it certainly has benefits for our health and for the environment. To start with, lets look at the food miles of a lot of the common foods that we eat. 

Food Miles

As mentioned earlier, this is the distance from farm to fork and can be made up of land, sea and air travel.

Banana from Barbados: 4,200 miles

Strawberries from Spain: 958 miles

Prawns from Indonesian waters: 7,278 miles

Pasta from Italy: 888 miles

Pineapple from Costa Rica: 5420 miles

Cauliflower from Spain: 958 miles

Potatoes from France: 213 miles

The list goes on! 

Why Should We Eat Local?

What is the big deal with eating imported fruits and vegetables? While importing has given us access to many fresh foods that were considered luxury items not many years ago, it also means that we are emitting many more greenhouse gases to transport the trucks, boats and planes needed to get this food to our island. All of this is contributing to global warming and also means that we rarely eat freshly picked food. Although the process of shipping food is now very efficient, we are usually still eating it many days after it was picked. By the time it is picked, packaged up, transported, put out in the supermarket, bought by us, sat in our fridge and finally cooked it could be well over a week old. Studies show that some of the vitamin and mineral levels in our foods drop dramatically within just hours of being picked. Take spinach for example, which can lose 50-90% of its vitamin C content within the first 24 hours of picking! Locally grown ingredients are always going to be much fresher, in season and higher in vitamins and minerals. 

How to Eat Local

It would be near on impossible to eat only UK grown food unless you had your own farm, but aiming to switch more and more products to UK ones is a feasible goal. Learn what foods are growable in the UK and what their seasons are to make the most of your shopping. This page by BBC Good Food is a great resource. So do your best, support our own farmers, the environment and your health.
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