it is twice as energy efficient for people in Britain to eat dairy products from New Zealand than from domestic producers. It is four times more energy efficient for them to eat lamb shipped from the other side of the world than it is to eat British lamb.
The main reason for this is one simple phrase from the economics of manufacturing:
Economies of scale.
New Zealand pretty much has defined industries around the lamb, they have massive herds and it is a big part of the economy as a result locally lamb is very cheap to produce. It is also over abundant there for the population, we means demand is low and that in turn means local pricing is low...local producers would have a glut if they don't export. Exporting is profitable since local producers can tie the price of export into the final distributor fees and those are padded on a bit before sitting in English meat stores, where lamb is much more rare...is not in abundance and there for greatly in demand to command a high price.
If we analyze any other produced good with few limited regions of production with out sized advantages to production we will see this type of advantage built in...how do we fix it?
Well, we are approaching a time (I say within 10 years) when our ability to produce high quality locally produced meat products will flatten the production playing field. Lamb grown in a sterile factory in England will be just as inexpensive to produce as lamb grown in New Zealand since the advantageous factors in the latter location that made natural grown lamb more efficient can be normalized away. However delivery cost will still make the latter over all more expensive. Thus final costs post production will be dissimilar in both places which would bias against export from one place being price competitive with locally grown product. So it simply won't happen. At least not at first, as delivery costs zero this will normalize but the localization of production movement I predict will happen ahead of the zero cost of distribution is achieved. This state will be reached when photovoltaic cells finally achieve cost parity with gas/coal...the idea of paying a provider to line in electricity will exceed the cost of purchasing panels and maintaining them over the life time of need...this will kill remote delivery in favor of ubiquitous self generation.
Much further down the road, I predict in about 40 years or so once we have fully autonomous humanoid robots with artificially intelligent minds we'll be able to have them take over the bulk of the physical tasks that we currently perform. Contrary to what many fear this will not be the tragedy to work that it may seem...humans will be able to profit from the labor of their robot work force (like slaves but minus the ethical issues) and pinch off more and more of the production loop. Homes that run from photovoltaic panels on the roof will eliminate electric and heating bills. Robots set to plant and harvest from personal plots will reduce the costs of produce in general and make much cheaper for humans to buy good produce, robots will drive delivery trucks (actually the trucks will BE robotic and will drive themselves), robots will mine for ore and work in the smelting factories that produce our goods. Robots will even design and repair other robots...as more and more are done by the robots at zero cost to us the more our existing wealth is maximized in it's efficiency. Eventually we will pinch off from the cycle entirely...with robots doing everything for us and requiring nothing from us to maintain the system, that is when we will reach full SHI (self healing infrastructure).