Rich Cookson, The Independent
Could you survive only on local produce? As the Government urges us to help reduce Britain’s spiralling food miles total, Rich Cookson spends two weeks without salt or sugar, tea or coffee, wine, pasta – or chocolate
If there’s an ancient art to preparing rabbit, I’d like to be in on it. I’ll spare you the details, but my kitchen looks like something out of a horror movie and the rabbit liver has just slipped off the chopping board and on to the floor – it’s more like Reservoir Dogs than River Cottage.
Still, food doesn’t come much more local than this. My rabbit was shot a few fields away and the vegetables were grown just eight miles down the road. The delicious, thick, creamy milk that will go into my mashed potato came free from a friendly farmer this morning. In a couple of hours, there’ll be a steaming bowl of delicious and wholly local rabbit stew and mash on the table.
The food we eat is travelling further than ever to get to our plates. A recent government report revealed that the food eaten in Britain travelled a staggering 30 billion kilometres in 2002. The study, from the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs, also found that the amount of food transported by lorries has doubled since 1974, and now accounts for a quarter of all miles travelled by HGVs in the UK.
The phenomenal grown of supermarkets, with their centralised distribution systems and out-of-town locations, is partly to blame. But they rightly say they’re only responding to demand: many of us want to eat strawberries and tomatoes all year round, without thinking too much about where they come from.
The report pointed out that each of us now travels an average of 136 miles a year by car to shop for food, and the combined environmental and social costs of all these food miles is about £9bn a year. Launching the report, the Sustainable Food and Farming Minister, Lord Bach, said that the issue was “complex and that a range of factors have an effect on the overall impacts of food transport, not purely the distance travelled by individual products… [but] buying local products has the potential to greatly reduce the distance food is transported.”
So just how local is it possible to go? Styling myself as Somerset’s answer to Morgan Spurlock – the US film-maker who ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month and made a documentary about the grizzly consequences – I set out to live ultra-locally for two weeks. The golden rule is simple: I can only eat food grown, reared or hunted within 10 miles of my house.
(5 December 2005)
Eating within a 10 mile radius of the homestead in Pasadena would certainly be a challenge especially for a family. Fortunately, on one side of the radius we have the San Gabriel Mountains and Arroyo Seco nearby where one could forage and hunt. As for the rest, nothing but buildings, houses, freeways and concrete