That tub of fruit yoghurt on the supermarket shelf has been advertised as healthy, fresh – and probably organic into the bargain.
But it also probably represents as much as 9000 kilometres of road and air transport to get it to the shelf. The yoghurt base, the fruit, the jar or tub, the lid, the label and even the bulk carton it came in have all come from widely scattered places. Germans consume 3 billion serves of processed yoghurt every year.
Modern industrial food production looks efficient: the products are always there, always fresh and always consistent. But underlying that seeming efficiency is a prodigal expenditure of energy, mostly as fossil fuels; often, the energy used to get the food to you outweighs the energy value of the food itself.
It takes 1000 kilojoules of energy to ship 170 kilojoules worth of out-of-season strawberries from Chile to the USA.
The answer, if you’re really serious about reducing your ecological footprint, is to unmodernise in the kitchen. Buy less processed food, cut down on out-of-season produce and scout around for a farmers’ market – they’re springing up everywhere and you’ll know the food has travelled tens rather than thousands of kilometres.
By doing that, you’ll also cut down on food additives, save money, rediscover the true pleasures of cooking and help farming folk to stay on the land.