A NEW APPROACH TO CALCULATING FOOD MILES

Summary

Originally launched in the UK in the mid-1990s, the food-miles concept was later applied in the USA, Canada and Spain. Food miles were calculated using a method that is deficient because it is associated with severe truncation errors. This project will improve on previous work in the sense that a comprehensive food-mile methodology will be developed that a) avoids truncation errors, and b) will enable the inclusion of more geographical detail and accuracy.

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Manfred Lenzen. The applicant will join the ISA Research Group at the School of Physics – The University of Sydney. ISA develops leading-edge research and applications for environmental and broader sustainability issues, bringing together expertise in environmental science, economics, technology, and social science.

Supervisor(s)

Professor Manfred Lenzen

Research Location

School of Physics

Program Type

PHD

Synopsis

Originally launched in the UK in the mid-1990s, the food-miles concept was later applied in the USA, Canada and Spain. Food miles were calculated using a bottom-up approach, for example – in the US studies – using a weighted average source distance (WASD). The WASD methodology is deficient because it covers the first supply-chain layer, and truncates all higher-order supply-chain inputs. These severe truncation errors are avoided when using input-output analysis (see Weber and Matthews 2008, who summarise the early literature, and propose using input-output analysis for calculating food miles). In addition, the computational ease of input-output analysis enables saving resources when implementing food miles labelling, and thus meets a concern by Waye 2008, who writes that “life-cycle analyses are generally very time consuming and expensive when compared to a simple concept like food miles.

This project will improve on previous work in the sense that food-mile calculations will be made not only dependent on the countries and sectors or origin, but also on the country of destination. For example, in the work by Weber and Matthews 2008 and López et al. 2015, the matrix of modal tonne-kilometres (tkm) does not vary with country of destination, but holds total tkm for each sector. This means that the total freight task of a supplying industry sector is distributed across downstream recipients according to the value of the transaction, and not by distance. In our approach, the country of destination is explicitly distinguished, thus adding accuracy to the food-miles results.

Additional Information

Interest and prior engagement in broader sustainability will be beneficial. Applications should be sent by email to Prof. Manfred Lenzen: manfred.lenzen@sydney.edu.au.

Further reading: DETR 1999; Sustain 1999; Pirog et al. 2001; Woodward 2002; Pirog and Benjamin 2003; 2005; Kissinger 2012; López et al. 2015

References:
DETR (1999) Transport of Goods by Road 1998. London, UK, Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Kissinger, M. (2012) International trade related food miles – The case of Canada. Food Policy 37, 171-178.
López, L.-A., M.-Á. Cadarso, N. Gómez and M.-A. Tobarra (2015) Food miles, carbon footprint and global value chains for Spanish agriculture: assessing the impact of a carbon border tax. Journal of Cleaner Production 103, 423-436.
Pirog, R.S. and A. Benjamin (2003) Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for local versus conventional produce sales to Iowa institutions. Leopold Center Pubs and Papers 7-2003, http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1130&context=leopold_pubspapers, Ames, USA, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.
Pirog, R.S. and A. Benjamin (2005) Calculating Food Miles for a multiple ingredient food product. Leopold Center Pubs and Papers 3-2005, http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1149&context=leopold_pubspapers, Ames, USA, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.
Pirog, R.S., T. Van Pelt, K. Enshayan and E. Cook (2001) Food, Fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions. Leopold Center Pubs and Papers 6-2001, http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=leopold_pubspapers, Ames, USA, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.
Sustain (1999) Food Miles: still on the road to ruin? Internet site https://ia600300.us.archive.org/32/items/Food_Miles/Food_Miles.pdf, London, UK, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming.
Waye, V. (2008) Carbon footprints, food miles and the Australian wine industry. Melbourne Journal of International Law 9.
Weber, C.L. and H.S. Matthews (2008) Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42, 3508-3513.
Woodward, L. (2002) Eating oil. Internet site http://orgprints.org/4138/1/4138.pdf, Newbury, UK, Elm Farm Research Centre.

HDR Inherent Requirements
Examples:
- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree; - Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.); - Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Keywords

FOOD MILES, Food and nutrition, input-output analysis

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2303

Other opportunities with Professor Manfred Lenzen