How many kilometres do the foods in an average Canadian meal travel to get to your table?

a)    1,000 km
b)    3,000 km
c)    5,000 km

It is estimated that the current food system produces more than 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Canada, particularly in winter, most fruits and vegetables are transported at least 2,500 km from their point of origin to your table. That transportation emits massive amounts of greenhouse gas.

Meat is usually produced locally. One would assume fewer greenhouse gas emissions due to shorter transportation distances.  However, to produce one kilogram of beef requires nearly 15,000 litres of water and 7 kilograms of grain. Producing that one kilogram creates 11 tons of greenhouse gas emissions— in other words, rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars!

So, how many kilometres do the foods in an average Canadian meal travel to get to your table?

Consider the following meal, prepared in March 2012:

  • Appetizer: Broccoli soup
  • Main course: Chicken with rice, carrots and asparagus
  • Dessert: Fruit salad

Let's see where the food came from and how many km it travelled *:

* Where possible, we favoured local food over food produced in other countries.

Appetizer: Broccoli soup  

Broccoli USA 3,000 km
Potatoes Canada 50 km
Milk Canada 50 km
   AVERAGE 1,033 km

Main course: Chicken with rice, carrots and asparagus

Chicken Canada 50 km
Rice Asia 9,400 km
Asparagus Mexico 3,500 km
Carrots Canada (Mexico or USA) 50 km
  AVERAGE 3,250 km

Desert: Fruit salad

Bananas Guatemala 5,000 km
Pineapples Costa Rica 4,000 km
Strawberries USA 3,000 km
Apples Canada (or USA) 50 km
Mangoes Peru 6,300 km
Grapes Chile 10,700 km
  AVERAGE 4,842 km

Total average: 3,042 km

How many kilometres do the foods in an average Canadian meal travel to get to your table?

The answer is b) 3,000 km