Roger A. Cady, senior technical consultant at animal health company Elanco, says that buying food from grocery retailers is better for the environment than purchasing locally grown food at farmers markets.
He made the argument at a presentation to the American Trucking Associations’ Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference in Arlington, Va.
Cady is co-author of the recent report "Demystifying the Environmental Sustainability of Food Production." The report explains that linear travel miles are not indicative of total energy use. Instead of total miles traveled, the report states that the energy use per unit of food moved paints a more accurate picture of overall energy use.
The report found that a modern refrigerated tractor-trailer uses the least amount of fuel per dozen eggs while en route to a grocery store, even if the eggs travel hundreds more miles than would eggs traveling from a local farm to a farmers market or to the consumer's home. Fuel consumption per dozen eggs purchased from a farmers market is more than eight times the amount used by a tractor-trailer, the report concluded. It also found that a consumer traveling to a local poultry farm is even less fuel-efficient.
Shipping eggs across then entire United States by tractor-trailer to a grocery retailer is still the most fuel-efficient, eco-friendly option, said the report. While the report did not examine all food products, it concludes that "food should be grown where the agricultural resources and capacity are most suited to efficient food production," rather than close to population centers.