Iowa Public Television


The Cost Of Food Transportation

posted on December 13, 2002

The creation and implementation of the Department of Homeland Security has intensified the quest to make the nation's food supply more secure.

That effort along with consumer demand is encouraging the development of an alternative agricultural economy, one that is less dependent upon imports.

Advocates of the local food movement argue that sourcing food grown closer to home would avoid the potential of terrorist contamination.

They also note a more intensive local food economy would conserve much of the massive amount of energy that is currently expended to transport food.


The Cost Of Food Transportation

A visit to the local Midwest grocery store which sells tangerines from South Africa, apples from New Zealand, boxes of bananas from Costa Rica and asparagus from Mexico confirms it is truly a global marketplace.

Even for grapes grown in the U.S., the produce can still be trucked hundreds of miles to Midwest or East Coast markets.

A study published by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in Ames, Iowa … showed, in 1988, the average distance a truck of produce traveled to reach Chicago, was 1,518 miles. That was a 22% increase over the 1,245 miles the produce traveled in 1981.

The Iowa study then figured the cost of utilizing three local food projects ... where farmers sold to nearby institutions, restaurants and conference centers… and found the food traveled an average of just 44.6 miles.

The study tabbed the cost of fuel and the carbon dioxide emissions … and found that "conventional" over-the-road transportation – used 4 to 17 times more fuel and emitted 5 to 17 times more CO2 from burning of the fuel than a regional-based food distribution system.

Fuel costs and environmental issues are but two issues integral to America's food distribution system. There are also concerns over how food is grown … and how it is labeled.


Tags: food money news transportation