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Where does the carbon footprint fall? Developing a carbon map of food production

The concept of local food is appealing to many consumers. But it is difficult to define what actually constitutes local food. Given the globalised nature of agricultural markets, bread baked in a small village bakery in England may be made from grain grown in Canada. Similarly, many of the inputs to a West Country dairy farm selling local ice cream may come from outside the UK.

One of the purported advantages of local food relates to reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the food chain. This concept was initially encapsulated by measuring food miles, but recently more comprehensive life cycle assessments and carbon footprints have been developed.

This report advances the discussion about defining the local by examining the geographical location of GHG emissions along the supply chains upstream of two case study farms. The resulting carbon map illustrates the amount and location of the GHG emissions related to the provision of inputs and on-farm processes, and enables characterisation of the ‘localness’ of the two farm systems.

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