I've read many articles listing the benefits of buying locally grown food and many of the benefits sound plausible. But today I read the following, which left my skepto-meter tingling (emphasis mine):

Did you know that the produce in the supermarket (whether it is organic or conventional) travels, on average, 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate? Not only is all that travel taxing on the environment, but it also gives the produce a chance to lose some of its nutritional value along the way.

Do vegetables, fruits or meats lose nutritional value between the time they are picked / rendered and the time they end up on grocery store shelves? Or is it that the mere act of transportation somehow affects the nutritional content?

Both propositions sound spurious to me.

  • 1
    This is a bit too broad - it depends entirely on specific produce and the method of preservation applied.
    – user5341
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 4:03
  • @DVK a specific type of produce whose nutritional content is shown to be impacted by storage / travel would answer the question, IMO.
    – John Lyon
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 5:03
  • @jozzas - How long for storage/travel?
    – user5341
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 10:12
  • 1
    @DVK I suppose that depends on the type of produce - hopefully someone has measured depletion of nutrients at several time steps.
    – John Lyon
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 22:30

1 Answer 1



Most produce is picked before it is ripe. This is so that it is firm enough to travel without spoiling and so that it arrives on sale in a fresh condition with some shelf life.

Produce that is picked before it has become ripe is less nutritious than produce that is picked when it is ripe:

"Fruits and vegetables destined to be shipped to the fresh-produce aisles around the country typically are picked before they are ripe, which gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. Outward signs of ripening may still occur, but these vegetables will never have the same nutritive value as if they had been allowed to fully ripen on the vine. In addition, during the long haul from farm to fork, fresh fruits and vegetables are exposed to lots of heat and light, which degrade some nutrients, especially delicate vitamins like C and the B vitamin thiamin." Source

The local supplier clearly does not have to account for the same amount of time in transport as the geographically challenged supplier and can therefore provide produce that is naturally more ripe.

  • 2
    Your sources does not seem to support your answer; link 1 and 2 are only about vitamin C. The claim that "vine-ripened tomato has twice Vitamin C as green-picked" tomato does not say whether this loss of nutrient is due to the longer shipping times or whether due to the tomato being prematurely picked. Bruised banana when knocked around is physical, there is nothing that implies that physical bruises affects its nutritional value.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 22:25
  • I think I will just quote a single source instead of adding my own bad science! Commented May 31, 2011 at 1:34
  • 1
    it doesn't answer the question. Those products don't LOOSE nutritional value during and because of shipping, they never had it in the first place.
    – jwenting
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 5:29
  • @jwenting I think you fumblings with CAPS LOCK wrong: losenotloose.com Commented May 31, 2011 at 9:21
  • @jwenting, strictly, you are right. It isn't the shipping per se. But, it is a consequence of wanting to ship it, so I think it is on topic.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 0:06

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