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Oranges Year Round

27 May. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich in manufacturing, food, products, transportation, pollution, life cycle assessment
manufacturing, food, products, transportation, pollution, life cycle assessment

It is a wonderful feeling to walk into a grocery store and see all the different fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses. The options can be overwhelming, but exciting at the same time because I can eat oranges year-round or eat cheese made in France. But the reality of having oranges year-round is not all good. Transportation of products, for example, is a huge factor in pollution. Plus determining the quality of the food, tracing all of its origins and regulating the industry are concerns we must consider with the year-round access to products all over the world.

A life cycle assessment, which only some companies perform, analyzes the transportation of a particular product as part of the assessment. A 2009 Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota study found that imported oranges had the highest emissions per ton compared to imported apples and bananas [into the U.S.]. Although the transportation of oranges was less efficient, the total emissions for all three fruits to be imported year-round was 300,000 tons of CO2, which is a staggering number. The mode of transportation [plane, train, boat or truck], quantity and packaging, and distance traveled affect transportation efficiency and pollution.

Product quality also needs to be considered with year-round imported products. For example, how long does a product sit in storage or in trucks before it gets to your dining room table? Yes, packaged goods have “best buy” or “sell buy” dates, but the time between when something is harvested or produced to when you get it is often unknown to us- the consumer. And when products come from farther and farther away this timeframe can become greater and greater, reducing food quality and freshness.

Additional concerns are the origin of products and regulation. Many times raw materials for processed foods are acquired from all over the world and then mixed together to make the final product you buy. This can cause a problem when determining the true origins of processed products and regulating the quality of those goods throughout the entire process. Companies may know this information, but it is rarely information offered to us- again the consumer.

Now you would think, well I am only going to buy locally grown products then. However, this is not always better because of agricultural practices and once again transportation [mode, quantity and distance]. This is where we need to start encouraging companies to provide information on their manufacturing practices; so we can make better-educated decisions. At this time, a good rule of thumb is to buy locally “organic” grown foods when in-season and/or have a garden of your own, while avoiding out of season produce. Purchasing other products from eco-friendly companies may be a step in the right direction, but be aware that appearances can be deceiving. So do your research.

Call To Action: 

Research companies and products
Buy local "organic" food
Avoid heavily processed foods

Difficulty: 
Topic: 
References: 

Papers In Resource Analysis; Apples, Bananas, and Oranges: Using GIS to Determine Distance Traveled, Energy Use, and Emissions from Imported Fruit; Greta Bernatz; 2009

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Comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/01/2011 - 10:21 #

This is pretty eye opening information. Thanks for opening my eyes to the truth about fruit production.

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