The next time you sit down with the entire family for dinner, here’s something to ponder: about 10% of the country’s energy budget is spent on getting food from the farm to your table.
To put this into perspective, the amount of energy consumed preparing and transporting food in the United States is roughly the same amount of energy used to power our neighboring country to the south, Mexico.
Think about that for a second. Trillions of BTUs of energy are consumed each and every year on food production. To put that into even further perspective, the amount of energy needed to produce our food is about the same amount of energy consumed by over 105 million people.
Why Does it Take so Much Energy to Produce Our Food?
Basically, food production in the United States can be broken down into four distinct processes:
- Food Processing
- Food handling
Agriculture consumes approximately 21% of the total amount of energy needed for producing our food. What’s involved in the agriculture process? Some examples include the production of pesticides and fertilizers on farms to harvest crops. To put this into cold hard numbers, the agriculture process consumes approximately 2100 trillion BTUs of energy each and every year.
Transportation consumes approximately 14% of the total amount of energy needed for producing our food. To put this into cold hard numbers, the transportation process consumes approximately 1360 trillion BTUs of energy each and every year.
Food processing consumes approximately 11-16% of the total amount of energy needed for producing our food. The processing aspect of food production consists of transforming raw ingredients into the food we eventually eat. A good example taking raw corn and transforming it into cereal. To put this into cold hard numbers, food processing consumes approximately 1640 trillion BTUs of energy each and every year.
Last but not least is food handling, the largest sector of energy in the production of food. In fact, food handling account for nearly half the amount of energy need for producing our food. Food handling of things like packaging, sales, service and residential energy consumption. A good example is the amount of energy it takes to package milk and keep it refrigerated both at grocery stores and our homes. To put this into cold hard numbers, food handling consumes approximately 5000 trillion BTUs of energy each and every year.
Can We do Better?
Here are three excellent tips on how to conserve energy consume during the food production process:
- Only purchase as much food as you can actually eat. It’s time to stop wasting food based on the following stat: an estimated 40% of all food goes uneaten. This equates to about 20 pounds per person, each and every month. How much food do YOU throw away?
- Try to buy more food that is produced locally. Consider regularly shopping at your local farmer’s markets to purchase fruit and vegetables that were grown in your area or region.
- Finally, make sure your refrigerator is EnergyStar compliant. These refrigerators use 20-30% less energy. Another excellent tip is to keep your refrigerator fully stocked. It doesn’t necessarily have to be food. You can keep it stocked by storing containers of water if needed. This may puzzle you but the fact of the matter is, refrigerators work more efficiently when they’re full.