Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of Geography
Christiane von Reichert
Neva Hassanein, Sarah Halvorson
agro-food geography, alternative food networks, carbon dioxide emissions, certified organic, economies of scale, food supply chain, food-miles
University of Montana
The spatial patterns of the conventional food supply chain have played a significant role in increasing the amount of miles food travels before being consumed. As a result, this has increased the amount of energy that is required to transport food from the farm to the table. The food supply chain links production to consumption. However, as food-miles increase, this link becomes obscure. The food supply chain can be described as having two very distinct parts: the conventional food supply chain and the alternative food supply chain. Business consolidation, and large-scale production, processing, distribution and retail characterize the conventional food supply chain. As a result of such economies of scale, the conventional chain is also characterized by standardization of knowledge. The alternative chain, on the other hand, is characterized by direct sales, small-scale production, processing and distribution and by a more transparent market. Certified organic foods began as an alternative to conventional foods. However, certified organic foods have increasingly been criticized for adopting similar business practices as the conventional system and thus travel the same lengths, if not further, than conventional foods. This study is a place-based approach that compares the food-miles and subsequent energy use of the two food supply chains—conventional and alternative—that provide food to retail grocery stores in Missoula, Montana. Energy use is estimated in gallons of diesel and the subsequent byproduct, or emissions, of transportation is estimated in pounds of carbon dioxide. Four of the highest selling retail grocery products; apples, bread, ground beef and milk, are classified into three different categories: “conventional”, “non-local organic” and “other-alternative”. The food-miles, subsequent fuel usage and emissions are also estimated for each of the four products. The study shows a remarkable lack of transparency in the conventional food supply chain and relatively low food-miles, fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions for the other-alternative products.
Spielman, Kimberly, "Food Supply Chains and Food-Miles: An Analysis for Selected Conventional, Non-local Organic and Other-Alternative Foods Sold in Missoula, Montana" (2007). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 458.
© Copyright 2007 Kimberly Spielman