In a newish way of questioning our food choices’ impact on the environment, to calculate “Food Miles” we look at how far our food has had to travel from paddock to plate. The less distance the food travels, the less fuel and energy is consumed in transportation, the less CO2 is emitted, more environmentally and community friendly the food is.
According to the BBC’s Food Miles website, agriculture accounts for nearly a third of all transportation on Britain’s roads.
Food miles have become a popular concept in the UK, with websites like the BBC’s and in San Francisco, where a group of women calling themselves Locavores have dedicated their eating to only foods grown within 100 miles of their city centre.
They invite us all to do the same for the month of September.
Inspired by the Locavores and in a bold move to help awareness of food miles, every ingredient in every dish served at the newly opened Melbourne restaurant, 100 Mile Cafe will come from within 160 kilometres of the centre of Melbourne.
On the menu is a guide to the miles each of the menu items have traveled. For example, the “Tortellini of flat head and silken tofu with a hot and sour broth (baby coriander, pea’s tomato)” has come an average of 77.5 miles while the “Gratian of Eggplant, tomatoes, Swiss brown mushroom and goat’s cheese” clocks in at an average of 89.5 miles.
The cafe’s owner, Paul Mathis told The Age:
“I had the concept for a green cafe brewing six months before SOS (a sustainable fish restaurant) folded. The penny dropped when I found myself drinking a big green bottle of mineral water imported from Italy in my own restaurant. And I thought, ‘What happened a hundred years ago when we didn’t have an oil-fuelled transport system?’ We ate locally!”
The Age journalist, Richard Cornish who interviewed Mathis became a locovore for a week to write an article about the Food Miles trend in June this year. He found sourcing foods from around the Melbourne area difficult but the experiment paid off in unexpected ways.
“It’s not surprising that the best lamb comes from the north-east of the state or Echuca. Some of the best eggs in the state are near Ararat and my favourite olives are grown under the morning shadow of the Grampians. But I have mussels from Flinders, corn from Gippsland, apples from the Yarra Valley, carrots and potatoes from Bullarto and a beautiful bag of the last of the season’s capsicums from Murchison in the Goulburn Valley.
To cook from within the 160-kilometre foodshed tests our skills; the research is extensive. Explaining my challenge to incredulous retailers and manufacturers was exhausting. And although I admit drinking a beer from South Australia, and caught my wife buying a coffee, for once we truly understood cooking with the season. We ate the peaches and tomatoes we bottled in late summer and worked out solutions to problems. Our discussions about meals changed from “What are we going to eat tonight?” to “How are we going to cook what we already have?”
Every time I approached meal time, Van Wing’s words rang in my ears. “To be a locavore,” she said, “is like trying to figure out all over again how things work if we didn’t have the industrial complex. It’s like taking part in a revolution.”
San Francisco’s Locovores are proud to admit they live in an area where they have much choice when it comes to eating locally.
For those who live in less lucky regions they suggest: