Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reducing Our Food Miles

One of the ways we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint is by buying locally produced food. We do not seem to have a farmers market in our area where the stall holders are actually farmers so until I can find a really local source for our food, I am aiming for Australian Produce.

The term ‘food miles’ refers to the distance a food has travelled from the time of production to your plate. Obviously, the further your food travels, the more energy is consumed and the higher the carbon output. Food miles does not take into account the amount of energy needed to produce the food which can vary widely, but I think that is an issue for another day.

In Australia, we have two labels to look out for and they each mean slightly different things - Australian Made and Product of Australia.
Australian Made means that a product is ‘made’ in Australia and at least 50% of the cost of production occurs in Australia. This can mean that a lot of the raw materials may be sourced from overseas and made into the product you will buy in Australia. Of course it can also mean that the majority of the raw materials are from Australia.
Product of Australia means that the main ingredients are made in Australia and the manufacturing or processing is also done in Australia. This label signifies that the majority, if not the entire product comes from Australia.
There is another label you sometimes see that is Australian Grown (I also see Produce of Australia). This one is pretty self explanatory and means that the major ingredients have been grown in Australia. If this label is on a product with more than one ingredient, be aware that there can be some imported ingredients but they won’t be the main ones. If you are looking at a product that only has a single ingredient such as fruit and veg then you will know that they have been grown in Australia.

When you look at the definitions of these three labels, it seems that the Australian Made label is a bit of a joke. They may have put the bits together in Australia, but if the bits come from all over the world then I think it really defeats the point. I am looking out for Products of Australia or Grown in Australia and am looking for alternatives when I can only find products from overseas.

We are starting our local buying in the supermarket and will move to other areas from there. Just adjusting your supermarket purchases is a big task and it is one that will make a huge difference. So far I have found about half of our grocery items are already products of Australia and 99% of our fruit , veg and meat is from Australia.

I go to a number of different supermarkets to do the grocery shopping including Coles, Aldi, Franklins, IGA as well as my local butcher and grocer. My butcher only sells Australian meat and the grocer clearly labels the origin of their produce.

I was surprised that Aldi had a lot of Australian products, as do the other supermarkets, but there are some things across all shops that I am having trouble with - the main ones being canned vegetables and beans. I haven’t checked Coles yet, but I am yet to find canned tomatoes, beans or legumes that are from Australia. The majority of them come from Italy. I am not sure what to do if I can’t find Australian canned tomatoes as I use so many, especially in winter. I haven’t needed to buy dried legumes yet so I am not sure if I can use them as an alternative to canned beans and lentils.

So, I will keep searching and hopefully, over the next month or two my trolley will only contain Products of Australia and our carbon footprint will be reduced even further. I must admit, it is not an easy task as it requires a complete rethink of the way we do our shopping but I definitely believe the effort is worth it.


greenfumb said...

Hi Emma,
I have been trying to do that too and it is a bit tricky, particularly for tins as you say. I bought some tomatoes that were supposed to be Australian but it turned out they were partly Aus and partly Italian. This week I bought home grown toms at Frenchs Forest market and bottled them myself but it was expensive and hard work. Let me know if you find a good source.
Deb x

Taryn said...

I have never heard of this- it seems like a good idea though.

Good luck with the canned goods!

Fiona said...

Hi Emma,

To give you a guide to what's available look at this web-site :- https://www.onlyoz.com.au

Hugs - Fiona

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