Center for Sustainable Systems University of Michigan 440 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1041 phone: 734-764-1412 fax: 734-647-5841 email: email@example.com http://css.snre.umich.edu Complete Set of Factsheets
1 However, store prices do not reveal the external costs 3 economic, social, and environmental 3 that impact the sustainability of the food system. Considering the full life cycle of the U.S. food system (graphic right) illuminates the connection between consumption behaviors and production practices.
Agricultural Production Farmers account for less than 1% of our population, and the average age of farmers is rapidly increasing. 2 Large scale family farms account for 10% of all farms and 75% of agricultural production. 3 A mere 19¢ of every dollar spent on food in 2006 went back to the farm 4, 3 in 1975 it was 40¢.
5 Four out of every five farm ... more. less.
households earned the majority of their income from off-farm sources. 2 In 2001-2002, 53% of the hired crop labor force lacked authorization to work in the United States. 6 From 2002 to 2007, total cropland acres decreased from 434 million acres to 406 million acres.<br><br> 2 The rate of groundwater withdrawal exceeds recharge rates in major agricultural regions. 7 Nutrient runoff in the agricultural upper regions of the Mississippi River creates a hypoxic cdead zone d in the Gulf of Mexico. The average size of the region was over 6,600 sq mi from 2004 to 2008.<br><br> 8 Less than 20% of corn, soy, and cotton plants were genetically engineered in 1996; by 2009 85% of corn and 91% of soybeans were . 9 In 2003, 1.75 billion tons of topsoil were lost to erosion 3 or 200,000 tons each hour. 10 Despite a tenfold increase in insecticide use since 1945, crop losses due to insect damage have nearly doubled.<br><br> 11 Agricultural activities were responsible for 6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. Livestock are major contributo rs.<br><br> 12 Consumption Patterns In 2004, the U.S. food supply provided 3,900 calories per person per day 13 . Accounting for waste, the average American consumed 2,775 calories per day in 2007 3 an increase of 28% from 1970.<br><br> 14 In 2007, Americans ate 200 pounds of meat per person, a 22 pound increase from 1970. 15 Nearly 60% of grains grown are fed to animals. 16 The average American ate 30 teaspoons of added sugars and sweeteners per day in 2005 3 more than triple the recommended amount.<br><br> 17 In 2006, 67% of U.S. adults were either overweight or obese, defined as having a body mass index of 25 or more. 18 Poor nutrition and physical inactivity accounted for 400,000 premature deaths in 2000 19 .<br><br> Diet contributes to heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke 3three major causes of U.S. deaths. 18 In 2003, the cost of obesity-attributed medical expenditures in the U.S.<br><br> was $75 billion 3 taxpayers financed half. 20 26% of the edible food available is wasted at the consumer level. See closses d, right.<br><br> 21 1 USDA Economic Research Service (2009). Food CPI, Prices and Expenditures: Food Expenditures by Families and Individuals as a S hare of Disposable Personal Income. 2 USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture.<br><br> United States Summary and State Data. Volume 1, Geographic Area Series, Part 51. 3 USDA (2009) Structure and Finances of U.S.<br><br> Farms, Family Farm Report, 2007 Edition. EIB 24. 4 USDA Economic Research Service (2009).<br><br> Briefing Room,Food Marketing System in the U.S.: Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer. 5 Elitzak, H. (1999) Food Cost Review, 1950-97.<br><br> U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Economic Report 780. 6 U.S.<br><br> Department of Labor (2005) Findings from the National Agricultural Worker Survey 2001- 2002. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy. Office of Programmatic Policy.<br><br> 7 Opie, J. Ogallala: Water for a dry land. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln: 1993 .<br><br> 8 NOAA (2008) Survey Cruise Records Second-Largest "Dead Zone" in Gulf of Mexico Since Measurements Began in 1985. Cite as: Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2009.<br><br> c U.S. Food System Factsheet. d Pub. No.<br><br> CSS01-06. September 2009 Life Cycle Impacts The energy consumed in a system is often a useful indicator of its sustainability. Modern agriculture and the food system as a whole have developed a strong dependence on fossil energy.<br><br> The figure below estimates the energy required throughout the current food sys tem. 7.3 units of (primarily) fossil energy are consumed for every unit of food energy produced. 21 On-farm production amounts to approximately 20% of the total system energy.<br><br> 40% of agriculture production energy goes into making chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 21 Large amounts of energy go into processing, transporting, storing and serving food. 21 Reliance on large fossil fuel inputs makes the food system increasingly vulnerable.<br><br> 21 Consolidation of farms, animal production facilities, meat packing plants, food processing operation, and distribution warehouses often places further distance between food sources and consumers. 21 Consolidation in the food system is also concentrating management decisions into fewer hands, raising questions of growing market control by a few corporations. For example: Over 80% of the beef packing market is controlled by 4 firms; 4 firms control 80% of soybean processing.<br><br> 21 The top five food retailers sell 42% of America 9s food (in 1997 it was only 27%). 21 Solutions and Sustainable Alternatives Simply being conscious of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of our food system is the first step towards sustaina bility. Ask yourself: Where did this food come from?<br><br> How was it grown? How did it get to my plate in its present form? Eat Locally Fresh produce eaten in the Midwest travels an average of more than 1,500 miles.<br><br> A study by the Leopold Center showed that incr easing Iowa 9s consumption of regionally grown fresh produce by only 10% would save over 300,000 gallons in transportation fuel a year. 22 The environmental and social consequences of food production get more attention when it is in cour own back yard. d Community Suppo rted Agriculture (CSAs) and Farmers Markets are both great ways to support a local food system. Eat Less Meat A meat based diet (28% calories from animal products) uses twice as much energy to produce as a vegetarian diet.<br><br> 21 Meat production as it is widely practiced today also has significant environmental impacts on land use, water use and water pollution, and air emissi ons. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists 3 considering land use, and water use and pollution 3 eating less meat is one of the most effective environmental consumer choices. 23 Eat Organic Chemical fertilizers and pesticides require large amounts of energy to produce, pollute our soil and water, and present real hu man health impacts.<br><br> Growth in retail sales of organic food products has equaled 20% or more per year since 1990. 24 Use Less Refrigeration Home refrigeration accounts for 13% of all energy consumed by our food system. 21 Today 9s convenience foods rely heavily on refrigeration for preservation.<br><br> Consider a smaller, more efficient refrigerator and buying smaller quantities of fresh produce more frequently. Refrigerator efficiency more than doubled from 1977 to 1997, but increases in size have largely offset this potent ial savings. 9 USDA Economic Research Service (2009).<br><br> Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. 10 U .S. Department of Agriculture (2007) National Resources Conservation Service.<br><br> "National Resources Inventory 2003 Annual Nati onal Resources Inventory." February 2007. 11 Pimentel, D. et.<br><br> al (1991) cEnvironmental and economic impacts of reducing U.S. agricultural pesticide use d Handbook on Pest Management in Agriculture CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 679-718.<br><br> 12 U.S. EPA (2009) Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 - 2007.<br><br> Washington, DC 20460. EPA 430-R-09-004. 13 USDA Economic Research Service (2009).<br><br> Data Sets: Nutrient Availability. 14 USDA Economic Research Service (2009). Loss-Adjusted Food Availability.<br><br> Data Sets. 15 USDA Economic Research Service. Briefing Rooms - Food Consumption.<br><br> USDA. May 2007. 16 USDA Economic Research Service (2009).<br><br> Feed Grains Database: Standard Tables. 17 USDA Economic Research Service (2008), Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System. Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S.<br><br> Food Consumption, 1970-2005. EIB 13. 18 U.S.<br><br> Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health, United States, 2008.<br><br> 19 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2004) "Physical Inactivity and Poor Nutrition Catching up to Tobacco as Actual Cause of Death." Office of Communication.<br><br> Division of Media Relations. Updated March 9, 2004. 20 Eric A.<br><br> Finkelstein, Ian C. Fiebelkorn, and Guijing Wang. "State-Level Estimates of Annual Medical Expenditures Attributable t o Obesity." Obesity Research Vol.<br><br> 12 No.1 January 2004. 21 Heller, Keoleian, 2000, Life Cycle-Based Sustainability Indicators for Assessment of the U.S. Food System, The University of M ichigan - Center for Sustainable Systems, Ann Arbor, MI, 1-60, CSS00-04 22 Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (2001) cFood, fuel, and Freeways: An Iowa perspective on how far food travels, fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions d Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.<br><br> 23 Brower, M., and W. Leon (1999) The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices . Three Rivers Press, New York.<br><br> 24 USDA Economic Research Service, Recent Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Foods Market / AIB-777. 2002.<br><br> Energy Flow in the U.S. Food System