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For a given weight and volume of food requiring refrigeration, how much worse would US manufacturing need to be than Western European manufacturing to environmentally justify purchasing imported food? Does it depend on where in the US I live?

Sample cases:

  • I live in NYC and am considering purchasing a sausage imported from Pisticci, Italy, or one produced in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • I live in Eureka, CA and am considering purchasing cheese from the Loleta Cheese Factory in Loleta, CA or that produced by the Amsterdam Cheese Company in Westbeemster, Holland.
  • I live in Omaha, Nebraska and am considering purchasing a pack of cheap tortellini, either from Sansepolcro, Italy or from Seattle, Washington.
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    This cannot be answered for just any foods. Can you edit you question and ask for one specific kind of food? It is still very broad then (almost requiring a full life cycle analysis including agricultural production, processing, transportation, energy sources), but maybe it is answerable then. It also helps if you exclude certain components from the comparison (e.g. energy source). – Jan Doggen Mar 26 '17 at 19:10
  • @JanDoggen No, that would distract answerers, I think. I don't understand how you can think that a full life cycle analysis would be useful to an answer in this or that case, so I'm reluctant to include an example food like that. What would be different between different kinds of refrigerated foods of the same weight and volume in terms of shipping? – Please stop being evil Mar 26 '17 at 19:13
  • @JanDoggen I've actually already excluded agricultural production, processing, and energy sources, and limited the transportation to a single group (well, maybe more than one if I am misunderstanding transatlantic shipping). – Please stop being evil Mar 26 '17 at 19:30
  • You're comparing food quality (with the associated downstream effects) with environmental harm. I don't think you can get a clear answer to how one can outweigh the other. A single extra person getting cancer from low quality food would consider a high environmental cost justifiable to avoid that. I suggest you remove that comparison as part of the question. – Highly Irregular Mar 26 '17 at 19:43
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    The samples would definitely help to quantify at least some answers. There are too many variables in your question and it makes it too broad. Do you speak of "personal" import rates or do you import food as a business? How do you import goods (air, ship, inland transports etc.)? Do we idealise some cases (transportation discontinuities) or do you focus on getting very realistic figures? There are too many combinations here - just elaborate on your question more and ask more specific question(s). – Peter Ivan Apr 1 '17 at 20:58