Eat Local? Maybe Not...

It's the height of harvest season, and ìBuy Fresh/Buy Localî campaigns across the country are celebrating September as ìLocal Food Month.î But not everyone believes that eating from within 100 miles radius is better for the environment than eating food that's shipped long distances. The Allegheny Front's Hal B. Klein has more on what are known as food miles.

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HOST: Itís the height of harvest season, and ìBuy Fresh/Buy Localî campaigns across the country are celebrating September as ìLocal Food Month.î But not everyone believes that eating from within 100 miles radius is better for the environment than eating food that's shipped long distances. The Allegheny Front's Hal B. Klein has more on what are known as food miles.

KLEIN: Pierre Desroches is a professor of geography at the University of Toronto. Since 2008, heís been researching and writing about the concept of... ìfood miles..î Thatís the total distance food travels from farm to consumer. The new book he co-authored, ìThe Locavoreís Dilemmaî considers economic and environmental impacts of various foods. Take apples. While theyíre practically falling off local trees now...

DESROCHES: If you want to eat it in March or April you have to leave it in cold storage for a few months, which has a huge energy footprint.

KLEIN: He says a better choice is to look to New Zealand or Chile.

DESROCHES: You put them on a container ship, which is by far the most efficient way of moving things that human brains have ever devised. And so it is cheaper, it is better, it is fresher. And so what it really shows you is that the mode of transportation matters a lot more than the distance traveled.

KLEIN: It may not be so simple, though. Thatís according to Michael Finewood, who teaches a class on food and climate change at Chatham Universityís School of Sustainability.

FINEWOOD: Food miles is an important metric here, but itís just one metric. Thereís a whole bunch of other factors at play: how much we waste; how much meat we eat; what we eat; where we go for food; how we preserve food; even down to packaging.

KLEIN: He says that if we address these broader issues, then the local food movement begins to make more sense. For The Allegheny Front, Iím Hal B. Klein.