Archive for September, 2011

How Many Miles Fruits and Vegetables Travel Before End Up on Our Plate?

We all know, most of the electronics, furniture, and many other things like, toys, kitchen ware, and tools are made in China. They travel more than 8000 miles before end up in our hands. I have a habit of looking the tags of shirts and pants to check the country they were made (And of course, I check the size to make sure they fit right). Surprisingly, I rarely see that they were made is China. Most of the dresses are Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Cambodia.  It is easy to figure it out as the country of origin is printed on these products or on their packages. Literally all these products travel thousands of miles before end up with us.

In the past, I never tried to figure out the origins of the grocery I buy from the grocery store. It is not that easy to find out the origins except the instances where it is explicitly mentioned on the packages, namely “California Oranges” and “Idaho Potato”. Some major food exporters to US are: Chile-Grapes, Banana, Black Berries, Cherries, Raspberries; Australia – Navel Oranges; France – Wine; UK – Whiskey; China – Garlic; Thailand – Rice; Mexico – Beer, Fresh Tomatoes; Netherlands – Fresh Tomato, Bell Peppers; And the list goes on…. As far as I know, banana is not produced in the US.

The table below gives an idea on the average distances travelled by each produce. I got this information from a study done by Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, at the Iowa State University. Unlike other products, a major part of these produces are from the farms within the US.

Produce Distance Traveled (miles)
Apples

1,726

Beans

1,313

Broccoli

1,846

Cabbage

719

Carrots

1,838

Corn, Sweet

1,426

Garlic

1,811

Lettuce

1,823

Onions

1,759

Peppers

1,589

Potatoes

1,155

Pumpkins

311

Spinach

1,815

Squash

1,277

Strawberries

1,830

Tomatoes

1,569

An increasing proportion of what Americans eat is produced in other countries, including an estimated 39 percent of fruits, 12 percent of vegetables, 40 percent of lamb, and 78 percent of fish and shellfish. The typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.