What’s in a Number?
Food writer Jane Black explores the history behind the oft-cited statistic that on average, food travels 1,500 miles from farm before reaching a consumer's plate. The statistic is misleading, Black explains: "It's only sort of true—and only if you live in Chicago," as the statistic comes from a 2001 study where "researchers examined how far 33 fruits and vegetables that had been grown in the United States traveled to a produce market in Chicago." Which means the data is only representative of produce at terminal markets in Chicago, not even Chicago distributors as a whole. And while people continue to widely quote the 1,500 mile statistic, the lead researcher for the study, Rich Pirog has himself "moved on from food miles to studies that focus on consumer impact: Does it make sense, for example, to pick up your farm share or have it delivered?"