Tuesday archive: The flight of the humble pea

From 10th June, 2006:

I am becoming a dab hand at turnip soup now that Family Harford eschews supermarket mange-tout in favour of a weekly organic box. I have to confess that I miss the marvellous mange-tout, bursting with freshness and rushed to me straight from Nairobi in a battered old 747.

The mange-tout is, sadly, now beyond the pale. My tree-hugging friends condemn the purchase of anything that has travelled what they judge to be excessively long distances – in the jargon, anything with too many “food miles”. The term echoes “air miles” and the distinct impression we get is that anything you buy outside a farmers’ market has been flown first class at terrible cost to the planet.

The truth is somewhat different. Hardly any food miles are, in fact, air miles. Just under half of them are customers driving to the shops, the rest are vans and lorries shipping food around on the roads. Air and sea miles are a rounding error – 0.1 per cent for air and 0.04 per cent for sea, according to a report on food miles commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and published in July 2005.

Continued at timharford.com.

Tim Harford’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Tim, also known as the Undercover Economist, writes about the economics of everyday life.