I've been wishing I had an easy-to-follow breakdown of energy use along the food chain. Now I do, thanks to Grist food and ag writer, Tom Philpott. The basic good new/bad news for home cooks is that a larger proportion (larger at least than I had realized) of the energy use bound up in food comes from personal choices rather than agriculture food miles. Food production and preparation takes energy--whether it's human in the form of gardening, cleaning, and chopping, or mechanical in the form of tractors, trucks, factory trimmers and baggers. A second refrigerator out in the garage, a impulse car trip to Trader Joe's (or the farmers market), running the dishwasher for a few dishes, the choice to buy premade burger patties instead of forming them one by one with your own two little hands--all those indulgences add up to way more energy than it takes to ship loads of rice or sweet potatoes across the continent. All those teenagers standing lost in thought in front of all those open refrigerators all across this great nation?---fire up another coal plant.
This should be great news for environmentalists in, say, South Dakota, where the local sourcing options must be pretty thin on the ground this time of year. It should not, in my reasoning, let us off the hook in terms of supporting local food production, especially in regions like this one that are so well suited to it.
Here's the article: