The concept of food miles has been relevant for as long as humans have swapped food. Every bill of lading archiving the contents of every inbound ship was an implicit reference to a point of origin and, therefore, a record of the distance food traveled. Not incidentally, in most cases, the further afield a particular good originated from the point of consumption, the more it was valued for its exotic qualities. Throughout most of human history, the market rewarded distance and novelty. The more miles traveled, the better.
By the late twentieth century, popular evaluations of food production had shifted into the new framework of global sustainability. An emerging emphasis on the environmental consequences of food production, initially inspired by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring(1962), fostered critical changes in how consumers evaluated responsibly produced food. Perhaps most notably, consumers now took an interest in reducing the distance food traveled between “farm and...
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