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Eating with food miles in mind

CNN's Ayesha Durgahee

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Being good to the environment involves choosing local produce from the menu.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Next time you are out for dinner on a business trip, you may find that the food on your plate has traveled further than you have.

Choosing between the locally farmed chicken or the New Zealand venison from the menu can help the environment.

Food miles -- the distance food is transported from the plough to the plate -- is of increasing concern for environmentalists.

This comes as we travel more and our tastes go global, whether it be for Chinese pine nuts or snap peas from Kenya.

However, hauling Peruvian asparagus or Pakistani mangoes across continents and oceans is not only costly financially, but is a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

"When you are bringing food from so far away it can be as much as four times or ten times as much as if you were buying that product locally," says Kezia Cowtan from LifeCycles Project, a non-profit group focused on food sustainability.

"So you should be thinking about buying a local meal or going to a restaurant that includes local ingredients in its menu."

For instance, while on a business trip to Canada, ordering a steak that has been flown across the Pacific from New Zealand will contribute three kilos of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the environment.

A lamb chop from Australia will contribute a similar amount of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, while tuna steaks from Hawaii will add one kilo of CO2.

However, if you are on the west coast of Canada and order British Columbian salmon garnished with locally grown tomatoes, then your carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon dioxide you contribute to the atmosphere, will be limited.

Food miles are calculated by multiplying the transportation distance by the volume of food transported.

The higher the food mileage from field to fork, the larger the load placed on the environment.

Locally produced, seasonal produce cuts food miles and can make environmental and economic sense -- for both the producer and the consumer. It can also cut emissions by as much as 90 percent.

CNN's Richard Quest contributed to this report

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