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Local food, food miles and carbon emissions: A comparison of farm shop and mass distribution approaches

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  • Coley, David
  • Howard, Mark
  • Winter, Michael

Abstract

This paper provides a critical commentary on the conception of food miles followed by an empirical application of food miles to two contrasting food distribution systems based on carbon emissions accounting within these systems. The comparison is between the carbon emissions resultant from operating a large-scale vegetable box system and those from a supply system where the customer travels to a local farm shop. The study is based on fuel and energy use data collected from one of the UK's largest suppliers of organic produce. The findings suggest that if a customer drives a round-trip distance of more than 6.7km in order to purchase their organic vegetables, their carbon emissions are likely to be greater than the emissions from the system of cold storage, packing, transport to a regional hub and final transport to customer's doorstep used by large-scale vegetable box suppliers. Consequently some of the ideas behind localism in the food sector may need to be revisited.

Suggested Citation

  • Coley, David & Howard, Mark & Winter, Michael, 2009. "Local food, food miles and carbon emissions: A comparison of farm shop and mass distribution approaches," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 150-155, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:34:y:2009:i:2:p:150-155
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rigby, D. & Caceres, D., 2001. "Organic farming and the sustainability of agricultural systems," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 21-40, April.
    2. Subak, Susan, 1999. "Global environmental costs of beef production," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 79-91, July.
    3. Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika & Ekstrom, Marianne Pipping & Shanahan, Helena, 2003. "Food and life cycle energy inputs: consequences of diet and ways to increase efficiency," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(2-3), pages 293-307, March.
    4. Roberta Sonnino & Terry Marsden, 2006. "Beyond the divide: rethinking relationships between alternative and conventional food networks in Europe," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 181-199, April.
    5. Pretty, J.N. & Ball, A.S. & Lang, T. & Morison, J.I.L., 2005. "Farm costs and food miles: An assessment of the full cost of the UK weekly food basket," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 1-19, February.
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