Study Debunks our "Fetish Of The Fresh"? Not.


Photo of farmed Norwegian salmon NatalieMaynor via flickr.
Canada's National Newspaper claims that a new study proves that buying local is not as Earth-friendly as it seems. It starts off with a loaded and offensive line, calling the local food philosophy "a guilt-reduction approach adopted by many environmentally confused but well-meaning shoppers"

Then the reporter, Jessica Leeder gets environmentally confused, and I hope guilt-ridden for her bait-and-switch journalism. She gets a quote from one of the authors of the study:

"Fresh is a big problem over long distance. If it's fresh, it's being air-freighted," he said, adding: "And air freight comes at a huge environmental impact."

Except that isn't what the study was about.


The study, Not All Salmon Are Created Equal: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Global Salmon Farming Systems looked at the production of salmon in the UK, Norway, Canada and Chile.

We found marked differences in the nature and quantity of material/energy resource use and associated emissions per unit production across regions. This suggests significant scope for improved environmental performance in the industry as a whole.

They found that the vast majority of the energy used in farming salmon comes from the making of the feed. Canada and Chile use poultry leftovers, which have a higher carbon footprint than feed in Europe, where the use of chicken guts isn't allowed. In the UK they use more fish meal so that they can call it "natural."

Then there is the issue of the "feed conversion ratio"- the Norwegians just seem to do a better job at metering out the stuff.

Nowhere in the study was there a hint of discussion about fresh vs farmed. If anything, the report is a damning indictment of the fish farming system, noting that raising carnivorous fish requires a lot of energy and "producing farmed salmon (and other carnivorous species) may be considerably less eco-efficient than terrestrial livestock production."- we might be better off having a steak than farmed fish.

The real conclusion: Professor Tyedmers tells the Globe and Mail:

"Intensive livestock production, whether it be salmon or milk, is predicated on concentrated feeds ... that are global commodities." And this is a surprise?

How the Globe can conclude from this that the local food philosophy is being challenged or that the study is about fresh vs frozen is beyond me. How the author can call the local food movement " a guilt-reduction approach adopted by many environmentally confused but well-meaning shoppers" in the news section of Globe and Mail is also a question.

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