Farewell to the Strawberry Patch.
I went to a lecture at the University of Toronto about food transportation. While the talk was about the logistics of food transportation of many foods, the lecturer used strawberry transportation as the example throughout the talk. Here are some tid-bits from the talk:
- Strawberries in grocery stores that are not local nor in season, most likely come from California, USA.
- In between California and your grocery store, say in Toronto, Ontario, the strawberries change hands (companies, shippers, transporters, etc) an average of seven times.
- During the seven times that strawberries change hands, one crate will be moved an average of twenty-two times.
- Strawberry transporters have exactly fifteen days to transport the strawberries before they spoil.
- Strawberries have to be kept in a very narrow temperature range to avoid spoilage. If their ideal temperature drops by two degrees, than they are considered to be "freeze damaged" and thus spoiled. If they increase in temperature by four to eight degrees, then they are still edible and sell-able, but their shelf-life is drastically reduced.
Other tid-bits regarding food transportation:
- One third of all produce in the USA never gets to the consumer, meaning it has spoiled, been contaminated, or does not meet grocery store standards. Spoilage is mostly due to temperature changes of the food during its transportation. (This is awful. What a waste.)
- Globally, half of food produced is garbage due to spoilage or because it failed to meet some standard. (So sad.)
- Food haulers are not paid extremely well. (Another awful fact, as they are carrying critical goods: food, the number one item that keep us healthy and living).
- In the USA---even though it is a country that has almost every climate imaginable in one state or another, making it the perfect for growing a wide variety of foods---roughly twenty per-cent of their food is imported from other countries. (Ridiculous.)
- Thankfully, when a particular food does reach a mild level of spoilage, it is not always lost. For example, when meat has reached a unsatisfactory level of spoilage for human consumption, it is often sold to secondary markets to be made into cat or dog food. Another example includes strawberries: if, during the transportation of strawberries from California to Toronto, the strawberries reach a temperature that will decrease their shelf life, their transport to Toronto may be canceled and the strawberries are instead sold to a jam-making company somewhere along the original route.
So what did this talk on food transportation teach me? First, it taught me that the food industry has become very complicated due to our increasing populations and dietary demands; therefore fields of natural, beautiful strawberry patches are becoming scarcer and scarcer as they are replaced with giant greenhouses and factories. Second, this talk reinforced my belief in eating local. The closer you are to the source of your food, the tastier, safer, and better the food, and the healthier the planet!