Fascinating Food Facts

First-World food fetishes such as locavorism (eating only locally produced foods) and organics are positively terrible for the world’s poorest people. If you want to do the right thing, become a globally conscious grocery buyer, says Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development:

  • It is twice as energy efficient for people in Britain to eat dairy products from New Zealand than from domestic producers.
  • It is four times more energy efficient for them to eat lamb shipped from the other side of the world than it is to eat British lamb.

The reason:  transporting the final product accounts for only a small part of the energy consumed in the production and delivery of food, and it’s far better to eat foods from places where production itself is more efficient. For example, New Zealand cattle eat clover from the fields while British livestock tend to rely on feed — which itself is often imported.

There are still as many as 1 billion people worldwide who are malnourished; and many are living on around a dollar a day. The best way to help poor people eat well is to make healthy food cost less. But the more agricultural land we divert into lower-efficiency organic production, the higher the price of all food will climb.

Comments (6)

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  1. John R. Graham says:

    Very true. However, we are losing the marketing war. The primitivists defined September 27 as “Earth Overshoot Day” – a loopy ratio of the world’s “biocapacity” versus humanity’s “ecological footprint”.

    I think the press campaign promoting this day got more media coverage than Tax Freedom Day or Cost of Government Day!

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    This makes a lot of sense. Another consideration is land in New Zealand or Australia is probably worth far less than land in Britain or land near a major population area. Consider wine regions in France or Napa, California compared to Southeastern Australia. Australia can produce good wines for a fraction of the price of Burgundy or Napa.

  3. Andrew_M_Garland says:

    Extreme Locovore:

    Only eat what you can grow in your living room.

  4. Bruce says:

    Another good argument for free trade.

  5. Carolyn Needham says:

    Another example of how engaging in commerce can help someone thousands of miles away and you don’t even know it.

  6. Virginia says:

    Interesting perspective. Not sure where I fall on this except to say that I am usually way too lazy to figure out where my food is grown.