by Steven L. Hopp
"Americans put almost as much fuel into our refrigerators as our cars. We're consuming about 400 gallons per year per citizen-about 17 percent of our nation's energy use-for agriculture, a close second to our vehicular use. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigation, sprayers, tillers, balers and other equipment all use petroleum. Even bigger guzzlers on the farm are not the machines, but so-called inputs. Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials, and in their manufacturing. More than a quarter of all farming energy goes into synthetic fertilizers.
But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion's share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing, (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from food.
A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable meal options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels every week.* That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make a big difference. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast."
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Might I ask, 'who says eating isn't a political act?' Vote with your fork!
I read things that affirm my biases about the world. Most human beings tend to gravitate towards materials that confirm their assumptions and beliefs, which seems only natural.
I just finished reading "On a Dollar a Day," and I myself am all too familiar with making choices based on price, and not quality, out of necessity of trying to stretch that last five bucks. Since then I've come to see where the real costs of our cheap food settle; the "savings" we see at the grocery store are an exploited environment: cleared forests, drained wetlands, eroded topsoil; dependence on oil and a limited supply of fossil fuels, polluted rivers and air, CAFOs, I could go on...
Maybe you financially can't make the choice for the $5.69 organic butter every week over the $2.99 generic brand, but start with things like ketchup that you don't purchase often. Paying an extra $.43 for ketchup is a cheap $.43 when you consider that you're paying for accountability, for clean air, clean water, for a farmer who respects the balance of nature and probably loves tomatoes. Start with paying an extra $.50 for toothpaste that doesn't contain food dyes, preservatives and endocrine disruptors. Start with just a few things from local farmers, or considering the amount of packaging on your food. For the longest time I scraped by, and still am, but I'm giving food the priority. I care about what I put in my body, and as I believe wholeheartedly in organics, if I don't support famers like me, who will?