One cannot ignore the energy required in maintaining the integrity of the “cold chain” through the transportation and storage of frozen food from the plant to the home. No reliable data is publicly available to evaluate that carbon footprint (infinite variables make for a very complex pictures, I was made to understand). One thing is for sure, however: the frozen food industry is working at reducing it. In England, the British Frozen Food Federation has deployed a plan, with the support of the Carbon Trust, to reduce the carbon footprint of the “cold chain” by 15 percent across the industry. In the U.S., initiatives are popping up to “green” operations: Oregon-based Stahlbush Island Farms powers its processing plant with a biogas power plant; in Connecticut, the family-business Carla’s Pasta is installing a 300-kW fuel cell power plant at its frozen food processing facility (it will provide 60 percent of its energy needs by mid-2011).
Ultimately, when it comes to making food choices that are not only good for our health but also for the health of the planet, the principles remain the same whether we’re talking fresh or frozen: choose local and organic. One obvious way to stick to these principles is to plan ahead and fill your freezer with fresh, raw food you have bought and conditioned yourself (although it requires some skills and equipment, it is most likely the least labor-intensive of all home food-preservation processes mentioned earlier).
Barring that, hope is on the horizon thanks to one frozen-food company that is applying these same principles to a T. Based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Locavorious offers its members a winter-time CSA program based on food procured from its network of nine local, family farms (not all of them are certified organic).
Imagine if farmers’ markets were thus given a second life wherever the climate temporarily stops food production! Farms’ productivity and revenue would increase (since spoilage and wastage would be a thing of the past) and consumers would benefit from the year-long abundance. Please share with us if you know of other examples of what Locavorious is doing, on whatever continent…