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Research – Food Miles in Australia: A preliminary study of Melbourne, Victoria

Posted in Models, Movements, Research by Ferne Edwards on August 29th, 2007

Report below from CERES website:

“Food Miles in Australia: A Preliminary study of Melbourne, Victoria” researched and written by Asha Bee Abraham and Sophie Gaballa estimates the distances travelled for food items found in a typical Melburnian’s shopping basket and the resulting greenhouse emissions from this transportation.

CERES Chairperson Robert Larocca said that the community understands the link between greenhouse gas emissions and personal transport and energy use, but is only now coming to understand the amount of emissions that result from the production of our food.

“Food Miles is a term now commonly used to measure the transport distance traveled by food products between production and consumption. Food miles are an important part of a larger full life-cycle assessment required to compare the sustainability of individual items within food systems.”

“We see the growing awareness first hand at our biweekly organic market where shoppers can choose food based on the location it was produced or grown. People appreciate knowing where their food comes from. Food that has been organically produced and travelled less ‘food miles’ not only is better for the environment but often tastes better too,” Mr Larocca concluded.

The study aims to open discourse in Australia about the sustainability of our centralised food systems and food production and take a proactive stance on forecasting future emissions. Co-author of the study; Sophie Gaballa said; “With the current urgency required to respond to climate change and peak oil challenges, the study highlights the need for Australia to respond accurately to the role our current food system plays within these issues.”

“The study revealed that food items like oranges, sausages, tea, baked beans etc with ingredients sourced from overseas have seen more of the world than most people. In fact, the report estimates that the total distance travelled by 29 of our most common food items is 70,803 km—that’s nearly two times the distance around the Earth! Calculating road transport alone, our shopping basket has still travelled 21,073 km, almost the whole way around Australia’s coastline. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions estimate for all food transporting trucks carrying these 25 items on any given day is the equivalent of 4,247 cars driving for a whole year! And that’s just for one shopping basket of 25 items.”

“Taking into consideration how far our food travels is only part of the Food Miles story. To further assess the environmental impact of food items you need to also look at how they are transported, processed and packaged to gain a more complete picture of the energy footprint of food systems,” Ms Gaballa concluded. The research was sponsored by the Finkel Foundation with the aim to develop a food education program that will inform and empower primary and secondary students through their food choices.

The full report can be downloaded from the CERES website for free. Visit: