PRODUCING food for a population of 4.6 million people in Ireland has a high environmental impact. For reasons of commerce and trade agreements much of what we produce in Ireland is exported and a great deal of what we eat is imported.
The example of fish is one we have quoted previously, 70 per cent of what is landed in Ireland is exported and 70 per cent of what we eat is imported - much of it from Iceland. However just looking at the environmental impact of food it is clear that we are dealing with a large Carbon Footprint.
Much of agriculture is dependent on oil, which generates greenhouse gases, the food consumed by an average family of four is responsible for about eight tonnes of CO2 a year. Fossil fuels run tractors, make fertilisers, power food production factories, and fuel the planes, ships, trains, and trucks that bring food to shops. The storage of food alone is the biggest single use of energy worldwide.
Cattle give off methane into the atmosphere (a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide). Compared to pigs and chickens, cattle also need a lot of feed, consuming the most soy-meal feed. Food processors need energy to run the machines that prepare, clean, and cook food. Food is transported by plane, ship, train and truck. Planes emit more greenhouse gases than any other mode of transport, and are thought to generate 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping.
Animals and plants are made up of between 50 per cent to 90 per cent water, so it's not surprising that farming uses a significant amount of water. Agriculture uses about 70 per cent of the world's fresh water. The meat and dairy industry uses up more water than does growing fruits, vegetables and grains, as cattle need to drink water. Dairy cattle can consume up to 100 litres per day while producing milk!
The provision of this information is not by way of saying we avoid these foods, just to keep their environmental impact in mind when we do our weekly shop. Buying local produce has less of an impact on the environment - it requires less packaging, less storage, less transport, less water from the mains and generally tastes better. It is to this end that Transition Kerry and the Culinary Department at I.T. Tralee are preparing the 'Meal of the Kingdom' where all the food produced comes from local suppliers within 50 miles of Tralee - including the beer!
The meal will involve five courses of the finest food that Kerry has to offer. It will be held at the I.T. Tralee on Wednesday, November 28, at 6.30pm and tickets are €30 each and they can be purchased at Manna Organic Store in Tralee, phone Thomas or Claire at (087) 9885145. In Dingle, at the West Kerry Live Offices, phone Lorcán at (086) 1737944. Alternatively, contact Linda at (086) 4009916 for all details.