We know our food is incredibly well travelled, but just where does your food come from? A new set of interactive charts help you trace the often serpentine route from farm to table.
Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture have completed an effort to trace just how far food travels across the planet. In a new paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they share their finding that, on average, nearly 70 per cent of the food consumed worldwide crossed at least one national border to get to where it was eaten.
The far more pressing question for most people, though, is usually not about what’s on the average plate. It’s about what’s on your own — and that’s where these maps and charts come in. Along with the paper, ICTA released a series of interactive charts and maps (which are an update to an earlier effort from last year) that you can use to see not just where the food you eat comes from, but also which foods your area is sending out.
Beyond a simple look at the mileage your food is accumulating, though, there’s something else important here.
Farms are getting more specialised worldwide, and it’s now fairly common for all of the farms around you to be growing the same few crops. This means that we depend on global food trade not only to have enough food but also to have a basic amount of variety in our diet.
That farm specialisation is one reason there’s such a gap between the imagined local diet and what it looks like in reality. If we wanted to switch to more localised diets, it’s not simply a matter of changing where we shop. It would mean a transformation in what we eat, too.