We have come to expect that most of the packaged food found in grocery stores arrives from thousands of miles away. But what about the taco from the food truck down the street? Students at the California College of the Arts URBANlab program took on the surprisingly difficult task of tracking the ingredients from a taco purchased at Juan’s Taco Truck in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The unsettling results: a single taco contained ingredients that traveled 64,000 miles. Some of the ingredients came from the Bay Area, including the salt and cheese. Others came from much further–the avocadoes came from Chile and the rice arrived from Thailand, even though both ingredients can easily be produced locally. View full-size image here.
As we’ve discussed before, food miles aren’t everything. Production contributes 45% of a meal’s carbon emissions, compared to a 6% contribution from transportation–so a producer that grows a piece of fruit with a less carbon-intensive production process 5,000 miles away is preferable to an inefficient local grower. And the majority of transportation emissions come from customer trips to the grocery store, so it’s more efficient to walk down the street to the taco truck than to constantly drive to get local ingredients from the grocery store across town.