As disparate regions of the globe become more and more intertwined through the expansion of global capital and the practical disintegration of international borders for massive companies, the food people eat is simultaneously delivered from every region of the globe so that seasons no longer dictate the availability of any given food. However, the ability to obtain any given food out of season brings with it environmental and ecological damages because the farming and transportation practices which make this global food market work are almost entirely unsustainable and detrimental to the continued health of the global food ecosystem. In order to better understand the nature of this borderless society and how it affects the food one eats on any given day, it is useful to trace the path a couple of meals have taken from farm to plate, because only by doing so does the ramifications of the global, borderless food trade become clear. By examining the ingredients of two of this author's recent meals, this essay will help to elucidate the benefits and drawbacks of a global food market.
The first meal to be discussed here was a lunch consisting of skinless chicken breast, a mixed salad, asparagus and spinach, a green apple, and iced tea. All of the ingredients for this meal, as well as the meal to be considered later, were purchased at Publix supermarket, an employee-owned supermarket. The chicken was made by Foster Farms, a company which touts its locally raised chickens but which sells them across the country, demonstrating the reality of the fact that "food sold in U.S. supermarkets averages some 1,500 miles from farm to plate" ("Local-Food Movement: The Lure of the 100-Mile Diet," 2011). The vegetables (asparagus and spinach) came from California, but the green apple arrived all the way from New Zealand and the iced tea was originally grown in Kenya. The second meal under consideration was a dinner consisting of fresh salmon, wild rice, squash medley, and a glass of Shiraz. The salmon came from Alaska while the squash and wild rice was grown in California, with the Shiraz traveling from Australia.
All of the foods grown in California likely made their way to Publix via a series of trucks, while the foods from Alaska, New Zealand, Kenya, and Australia likely traveled across the ocean by boat, although there is the possibility that airplanes were used (although unlikely, as shipping by boat would be considerably cheaper). This global shipping of food and even the relatively short transit of the California produce demonstrates how even those foods purported to be grown locally and sustainably ultimately contribute to the degradation of the environment once they are introduced into the global food market, because the global pollution produced by the fuels used to transmit these foods far outweigh any of the regional benefits that may have occurred. Especially in light of the threat anthropic climate change poses to the global food supply, the use of dirty fuels to ship these foods makes most claims towards sustainability laughable, because the entire system through which these supposedly "sustainable" foods are sold is itself unsustainable in its current form. However, this is not to suggest that the global food market has no benefits, but rather that these benefits must be considered alongside the negative impacts as well.
In the short-term one of the obvious benefits of a global food market is the widespread availability of foods from disparate regions and climates for those living in well-developed countries, because what was previously considered exotic or otherwise expensive foods become relatively cheap and mundane through the work of the global market. As Kloppenburg et al. (1996, p. 34) note, in any given supermarket in the United States, one "can find tomatoes from Mexico, grapes from Chile, lettuce from California, [and] apples from New Zealand," although without simultaneously being able to count on finding locally grown versions of these foods, "even when those crops are in season locally." The availability of foods from across the world benefits more than just people's palates, however, because it allows for people from different cultures to bridge certain societal or ideological gaps by being able to try different foods.…