• In season now: May

    New this month: Asparagus! The food of gods... and carrots are back.

    Still in season from last month: cauliflower, chard, green cabbage, salad leaves, main-crop potatoes (from store), salad leaves, sea kale, spring greens, rhubarb

    Goodbye till next year to: Purple sprouting broccoli (sniff, sniff), leeks, stored parsnips, forced rhubarb

  • What I’m doing here

    This all started when I picked the first strawberries from my new allotment.

    I'd never been so enraptured or so excited by food. It was a shock to find that anything could taste so good.

    So what - I'd never had strawberries before?

    No - all the strawberries I'd had were shop-bought, like as not flown in from intensive growers in Spain or Chile, and eaten in winter when strawberries should be a distant summer memory.

    It revolutionised my thinking about the fresh food we eat every day. I started to wonder if you got the same amazing taste from all types of food grown and eaten in season. And then I decided to do something about it.

    The Year of Eating Seasonally is my little experiment to find out what it's really like not to have it all. The only fruit and veg I and my family are going to eat in 2008 will be what's growing in the ground at the time (or, in winter, what I can get out of store).

    I want to find out if the hungry gap is really as hungry as everyone says it is: whether you're really eating nothing but cabbage all winter; and whether you miss strawberries in December.

    Along the way I hope I'll save a few tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere on my behalf, as I won't be requiring those French beans flown from Chile, thanks very much. And I hope I'll be rediscovering what food can really taste like.

    If you have any comments, please feel free to post them anywhere you like - or you can email me at sallywhite@hotmail.com.

Food miles

Eating seasonally vs eating whatever we want, when we want – which is more environmentally friendly?

Food miles: the distance a food travels from field to plate.

  • Agriculture and food now account for nearly 30 per cent of goods transported on our roads. 1
  • Food miles rose by 15 per cent between 1992 and 2002. 2
  • The food industry accounts for about 14% of energy consumption by UK business, 7 million tonnes of carbon emissions, and 25% of all HGV vehicle kilometres in the UK. 2
  • Britain’s exports £9.7 billion worth of food products each year. Imports are running at £21.9 billion, of which £4.2 billion are unprocessed [i.e. fresh] and £10.1 billion are “lightly processed”. Britain is 63% self-sufficient.2 
  • There have been dramatic changes in the last 50 years in the food supply chain, most notably globalisation of the food supply base, major changes in national food distribution patterns with the development of supermarket regional distribution centres, coupled with a trend towards use of larger HGVs; and reductions in shopping frequency in line with development of out-of-town supermarkets and increased shopping trips by car.2
  • Car journeys account for 48% of the food miles on any item of food. But in terms of CO2 emissions, car journeys account for only 13% of emissions associated with UK food transport: HGV vehicles, on the other hand, account for 33% of emissions.2
  • Shorter supply chains aren’t necessarily the answer. The advantages of reducing mileage need to be balanced against possible increases in other emissions across the product life-cycle. There are instances where food from nearby sources (e.g. grown in hot-houses) will actually have been produced in a more energy-intensive way..2
  • Food retailers have a crucial part to play in helping to re-build the market for locally-sourced produce, by ensuring that their buying teams are aware of the opportunities for working with local food producers.. In addition, consumers may need encouragement, e.g. by tasting opportunities, to see the benefits of locally-produced food. Crucially, retailers need to demonstrate their commitment to locally-sourced produce by making shelf space available. 2
  • Price, taste and sell-by date are the three most dominant factors in consumer thinking. Wider sustainability issues do not feature highly amongst factors affecting consumer choice. 3

1: source: BBC Food
2: source: Defra food industry sustainability strategy 2006
3: source: Food Standard Agency Food Concerns Omnibus Survey 2001

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