Q: Dear Chef Boy Ari,
I have a dilemma. I want pineapple, and I’m already sweating the fact the fruit I want needs to be shipped from far away, releasing greenhouse gases into the environment and contributing to global warming.
Still, I want my pineapple bad enough to buy it anyway. So here’s my question: should I buy my sinful pineapple from a can, or fresh?
—Pining for Pineapple
A: Dear Pining,
That’s a really good question, and bravo for pondering it despite resolutely caving in to your abusive desires.
Fresh is nice because it’s the least processed, and potentially the best tasting and most vitamin rich. But with fresh, you are shipping the whole fruit, including skin and top, which would eventually be discarded. Thus, you’re burning oil to ship refrigerated compost. And you’re encouraging the exporting nation to export a raw material, rather than the value-added product of canned pineapple (which was more likely to have been harvested when ripe, rather than a week before it was ripe).
Not only are the value-added contents of that can of pineapple edible, but they can be shipped on a slow boat, no refrigeration required. But the downside is the energy and raw materials that go into producing that can—although, according to the Pittsburgh-based Steel Recycling Institute, 88 percent of all steel products are recycled, saving energy and ore.
So where does that leave us?
I think the best answer is “none of the above,” because the most ecologically friendly way to eat pineapple in the Rocky Mountains is to eat it dried. That’s the lowest weight option and thus the least energy-intensive shipping option. It’s likely to be harvested at the peak of freshness, and not only is its value added, but the drying process can be conducted on a very small scale, which means small farmers can get in on the action.