What are food miles? Plus four reasons to reduce them

Food mile /fo͞od mīl/: the distance food travels from where it is grown to the end user

When you buy food, you’re also buying the labor to grow and harvest it, the roads to transport it from the farm, processing if need be, and the fuel to fly it hundreds or even thousands of miles. This is a luxury we’ve all grown accustomed to, as modern retailers continue to supply an increasing number of imported goods through a sophisticated system that goes largely unnoticed.

But when we add up the resources needed to transport many of these goods around the world, our carbon footprint grows at an unsustainable rate. Transporting food is a fuel-guzzling process that eats up fossil fuels. In turn, the use of fossil fuels generates large quantities of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, that warms our atmosphere.

Simply put, the more food we transport, the more greenhouse gases we emit. And the more greenhouse gases we emit, the more we influence climate change.

Every day, we make choices that affect the environment. People may choose to be more environmentally-friendly by purchasing plastic-free products, choosing greener transportation, or cutting back on electric and water usage. But changing your eating habits can also decrease the strain you put on the environment as a consumer.

By supporting local farms and in-season produce, we can drastically cut down on the miles a food travels to get to our plate and its subsequent fuel usage. But doing this has other benefits, too. Here are four other reasons to shop local:

Fresh produce contains more nutrients

The quality and nutritional value of produce can be affected by careless handling, mechanical harvesting methods, storage at improper temperatures, and rough transport – all factors that are more likely to increase the farther it must travel.

Less travel means a safer food supply

Less transportation and handling also means less chance for contamination throughout the supply chain.

Seasonal produce offers better variety

Eating what’s in season means following the natural flow of the seasons and adding variety to your diet throughout the course of a year. A diet centered on variety is more likely to contain a good balance of nutrients.

Supporting local preserves green spaces + biodiversity

Small farms are more likely to pay attention to the ecosystem and soil health of their farm so that it lasts well beyond this season and continues to deliver high quality goods. By supporting them, you’re supporting their practices.

While not everything you buy will be local, you can still reduce your food miles by shopping local for whatever you can. How far and by what method a food is transported is not the only factor playing into how environmentally friendly it is, but it’s a good place to start. Farming methods vary greatly and have different impacts on the environment, and certain crops are simply more resource-intensive than others. If you’re at a farmers market, take advantage of the opportunity to talk to someone who represents the farm.

At Vegetable and Butcher, we try to cut down on our food miles to serve you higher quality food, support our favorite farmers, and lesson the hardship we put on our planet. This is why we put so much thought into creating your menu and sourcing ingredients!


Emily Smith

PR and Marketing Specialist of Vegetable and Butcher and a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and sustainability junkie. Emily called DC home for three years before making her way to California. Emily has her master's in Nutrition Education and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) candidate. She's passionate about helping people learn to use food to fuel their outdoor activities, and in her free time you can find her rock climbing. . You can connect with her on her website and on Instagram.

more than food


Not sure where to start

take our quiz to find the program
that's right for your lifestyle + goals