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  • Writer's pictureThe Climate Coach

Why you should reduce your consumption of air-freighted foods

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

As we've already learnt - food emissions are very complex and vary massively depending on how they are produced, processed and cooked. However there are some foods where emissions can increase significantly depending on whether they have been transported by plane or not.

Surely strawberries aren't bad for climate?

Strawberries themselves, not so much. However, if you buy them off season then it's likely that they have been flown in from wherever they were grown - which gives them a relatively high impact on climate via their transport emissions.

Air freight makes up a tiny part of overall food transport - 0.16% of the total. The vast majority is transported by water, road and rail - as shown in the chart below. However, transporting food by air generates about 50 times as many emissions as transporting the same amount by water.

Since most of our food is transported by water, road and rail - on average it only accounts for about 6% of total food emissions, which in the grand scheme of things doesn't sound like much. However, clearly because air transport generates 50 times as many emissions as water, some foods - which have very low emissions themselves can actually turn into relatively high emission foods. Like in the strawberry example earlier. Helpfully (!), there is no hard and fast rule about which foods these are but generally it's foods with a short shelf life that have travelled a long way - so check the country of origin on the label. In the UK for example, if you buy raspberries, strawberries and other fresh fruit when it is out of season here, then there is a high chance is was transported by air and thus has a high carbon footprint.

Wouldn't it be great if food was labelled with its carbon footprint to help you make informed choices?

Tell me about it! So in summary, whilst I definitely don't agree that "eat local" is always better for climate (more on that in another post) - I do agree and recommend that reducing consumption of fresh products out of season or more specifically - air freighted fresh food, is a good and actually relatively easy way to reduce your food emissions.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or ideas you wish to contribute on this or any other topic covered by The Climate Coach - please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

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