Monday, August 15, 2011

Food without borders

A cargo of just-caught prawns is off the Scotland shores to China, a country with low-pay labour market, to be hand-shelled. Then these same prawns are shipped again to be sold in… the UK! Some of these prawns are likely to be eaten in Scotland, just by the same shores where they were caught. Also, Canadian shrimps are sent to Iceland to be shelled and then traded somewhere else overseas. And this applies to many other products: most of our food and drinks are grown or manufactured thousands of miles from the final consumption site. This is just nonsense.
And this nonsense has obvious costs for our planet. Dave Reay authors the book Climate Change Begins at Home and he estimates that 10 to 20% of our environmental impact is due to food: producing, shipping and manufacturing.
To end up with this suicidal practice, several solutions have been tested, such as levying a new tax on less-efficient products, but the best solution is just making use of our common sense. As consumers, we have great power, much more than we think of, so choosing not to consume products involving high energy waste (and raising awareness among our friends and acquaintances) can really make a change.
As always, some people have been doing it for ages: the movement Slow Food, for instance, tries to change our relationship with food by including, among their many claims, eating and drinking locally-grown products, but they are not alone. The local food movement claiming to consume proximity products has many names: km0, 100-mile diet, Local Food, CO2 Diet or Locavore are the best-known groups, but there are many more.
Needless to say, you do not need to be a member of a group to eat locally, you just need to follow your common sense: change import beer for local brands you like, drink national wine, ask your grocer, butcher or fishmonger where the products come from and do not choose products from overseas… Internet is a good source for advice and new ideas to raise awareness about local products: you just have to google any of the above-mentioned group names.
A good start is just thinking about it: next time you go to the market or you prepare your lunch, just take a look at product labels to check the origins of each ingredient, and you’ll see that many of them can be replaced by local products with the same (or even better) quality. It’s just you never thought of that before.


  1. Scottish prawns shelled in China:
  2. The statement that 10 to 20% of our environmental impact is due to food is taken from the book Climate Change Begins at Home by Dave Reay:  
  3. Slow Food web site:


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