Where Your Food Comes From and Why It Matters
Have you ever wondered how those bright, tasty tomatoes made it to your table? Or perhaps, wondered where and how the chicken you prepared found its way to a grocery store near you? As basic as consuming food can seem, a vast system generates and supports current food needs and consumption levels and it is vital that individuals take an interest in their food system, how it affects the world around them and its effect on their health.
As more and more of our food is grown by large corporations and consumption of goods increases, it is easy to lose sight of the origin of the foods we consume and how much time it takes to get them to our table. In an effort to lift the veil, we will outline how one dinnertime meal makes its way to a grocery store and then onto a table near you.
Over the next three weeks, every Monday, we will delve into the ingredients that you may use to cook a classic meal, roast chicken and vegetables. For today’s post, we will start with the veggies that make it to your dinner table and the road they take to get there.
Calling all vegetables: Carrots, Red Potatoes & Onions
To start, we will examine the hearty carrot. Carrots are a root vegetable and are usually orange; however, wild varieties exist in purple, yellow, red and white. Carrots have a variety of uses and are often featured in recipes. They are a hearty vegetable and, if stored properly, can last for months. The carrots you pick up at a grocery store can come from a variety of countries. They may travel a very far distance, in the case of carrots originating from China, which produces nearly 50% of all carrots (FAO) or originate from somewhere relatively closer to you in the US. The further a carrot is produced from you, the more energy is required to bring it to your local grocer. Your carrots journey will begin in the ground with a seed most likely originating from Canada (FAO) . Once your carrot has matured, it will likely be picked by a machine, cooled, sorted for quality, packed and, depending on the distance traveled, its journey may include a container ship, trains and trucks. Sounds a little complex for a humble carrot!
Next on the list is the red potatoes we will use for our meal. Red potatoes are one of nearly a thousand varieties of potatoes. While the potato originated from South America and is still a staple crop in Europe, its production is now dominated by Asia, with China producing nearly 50 % of all potatoes (FAO) . Your potato will get its start from a seed most likely originating from one of two eastern European countries, Russia and Ukraine (FAO) . Once matured in the ground, your potatoes will be mechanically harvested, sorted for quality and then begin a lengthy maturation process that includes specific temperature and humidity levels and may be stored up to a year in a commercial storage facility. Their lengthy journey will then begin to a grocery store near you and may include a ship, train, truck and airplane!
Not to be outdone by the far flung journey of potatoes and carrots, your onions likely got their start in faraway Sri Lanka as seeds (FAO) . While six different continents play a part in onion production, Asia once again dominates with China and India pulling to the front (FAO) . Once your onions are ready to be plucked from the ground, they will likely be harvested by a machine similar to a potato harvester. They will then be dried out, sorted, packed and be ready to head to the grocery store. Similar to potatoes, commercial harvesters may choose to store onions up to several months in properly refrigerated facilities. Next the planes, trains, automobiles and ships come in. Quite a whirlwind for your veggies to make it to your plate!
Wondering what’s next?
Tune in next Monday to read about the paths your chicken may have taken to get to a grocery store near you!