Thursday, August 23, 2007

Believing What We Want--Food Miles

[Updated: Rich Pirog wrote me a nice note, essentially saying he's still checking, and giving this reference: ]

Someone asked Tom Philpott at Gristmill about the sourcing of a factoid apparently often used in the "slow food" or local food movement--that on average food on our table moves 1200 miles. To his credit, he did some research and found it wasn't a 1969 DOD study. Instead, he tracks down Rich Pirog at Iowa State who says it's a 1969 Department of Energy study:

"Rich did a comprehensive look at food-mile studies for his 2001 paper "Food, Fuel, Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, food usage, and greenhouse gas emissions."

The only study he knows about that comprehensively estimates food miles nationwide is the 1969 DoE effort. Reader Steven, if you're still with me, the citation for it is: U.S. Department of Energy. 1969. "U.S. Agriculture: Potential Vulnerabilities." Stanford Research, Institute, Menlo Park, CA."

Unfortunately, DOE wasn't formed until the 1970's--Jimmy Carter in 1977. (Actually, it makes more sense to have been a DOD study--at that time there were still worries about nuclear warfare and the farther food traveled, the more vulnerable we might be.)

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