Food Miles: do UK consumers actually care?

The food miles concept, originating in the UK and given much prominence in the news media, has been used to imply that importing food from distant countries is inherently more wasteful than growing and consuming local produce.

What impact is this potential non-tariff barrier having on consumer buying behaviour in UK supermarkets? Revealed preference surveys in four supermarkets show only 5.6% of 251 consumers nominated country-of-origin as one of the reasons for choosing a fresh food item they had just purchased.

Furthermore, only 3.6% indicated that they had consciously chosen British products for the reason that such produce was "less harmful for the environment."

In contrast, stated preference surveys in the street found that 21.5% indicated that "food miles" or "the long distance it travels" would stop them buying New Zealand products. What people say may differ substantially from what they actually do in regard to "food miles."

14 Jul 2010