QUESTION: Average American meal question

question / pregunta: 

"It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate." With the recent spate of books, films, web sites related to food activism, this phrase seems like it's commonly repeated, but where does it come from? I found it on the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture web site (, was mentioned in the film "Food, Inc." and Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" but none of these sources provide further information. I'm presently taking a year away from graduate school to start a farm project with a few friends of mine, and i am writing a formal journal about the experience. A few of these entries will be specifically related to energy consumption, so it's important to me that i understand how the aforementioned statistics are figured...

Thanks so much...


This article is widely cited on "eat local" websites, and is likely the source for the statement.

Just to follow up on Shqippy's speedy reply...the article he links to cites

Hendrickson, John. 1996. "Energy use in the U.S. food system: A summary of existing research and analysis." Sustainable Farming-REAP-Canada. Ste. Anne-de'Bellevue, Quebec. Vol 7, No 4. Fall 1997.

as the original source of the data. Unfortunately the journal isn't held in libraries near you.

You'll have to get it via Interlibrary Loan if you want to read the original study.

fyi, the journal title may also be listed as Sustainable farming : the quarterly magazine of resource efficient agricultural production.