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Food Consumption and Production Patterns

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1) When considering the types of food we eat today in the US (apples, milk, bagels, salad, hamburgers, French fries, ice tea, etc.) what types of fossil fuels are used in the production of this food (including tractors, trucks, etc.).

2) What types of fossil fuels do we use when going to the store or a restaurant to get the food?

3) With regard to economics, infrastructure, and subsistence patterns, how does our diet in the US today compare to that of Food Foragers?

4) With regard to economics, infrastructure, and subsistence patterns, how does our diet in the US today compare to that of Horticulturalists?

5) With regard to economics, infrastructure, and subsistence patterns, how does our diet in the US today compare to that of Pastoralists?

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Dear Student,
Hello. The narrative below depends not on one particular source but from a variety of references. Questions 1 & 2 are answered in section one while the comparison sections for 3,4,5 follow. I think it would help if you can create a matrix based on this as it would make things far easier to understand. Good luck and thank you for using Brainmass.

OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Food & Fossil Fuel

The 1978 book 'Eating Oil' (Green) illustrated how food supply in industrialised nations were so heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Even if the end product in the table is organically grown, at one point or the other, to get to the table, fossil fuel was utilised to make it happen. Food distribution and production is so dependent on fossil fuel that fuel blockades, its distribution, transport, sourcing and pricing affect world economies aversely. Hence, the inflation and deflation of an economy is partly dependant on oil prices, especially in the case of the 3rd world nations whose capacity to purchase, source and distribute oil to its populace is greatly challenged when compared to the capacity of the first world. Energy runs our current civilization - electricity and its production at one point or the other (even 'green energy') utilised fossil fuels (the diesel-run trucks that transport the wind turbines, the vehicles used by crew to maintain wind farms, the machinery needed to run the wind farm and bring electricity to the grip depend on engines run by fossil fuel (not to mention the human factor in running such an enterprise - all use fossil fuel for transportation, for food production, etc.). Whether or not we are fully dependant or partly dependant, we still use fossil fuel. This subject is not a narrow one as we have different ways of food production worldwide. The following however is a starting point from which to view food production.

In agricultural/developing nations - in countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, much of 3rd World South America and Africa - the poorer members of society in rural areas not connected to the grid use fossil fuel. Many use coal (in lieu of firewood) and charcoal (made from burning trees using a gasoline accelerant) to heat up water and cook food. In farms, while many utilise old farming methods (relying on cow and horse to plough the field), generators run by gasoline are used to irrigate larger swathes of farmland and due to the need to produce more for economic gain, many rent tractors to plough fields 4 times a year as well as a harvester to save on farm labour. Many homes rely on kerosene lamps (a fossil fuel) to light their homes at night and homes who can afford it use liquid petroleum gas as well as methane to fuel their food cookers (gas cylinders). This certainly seems tamer compared to energy dependency of the 1st World. In massive fields in the US, Canada, Germany and the UK for example, tractors, combine harvesters and machineries run on either diesel, benzene or lpg autogas - fossil fuels all (field preparation, planting, fertilizing, cultivation, harvesting, processing, transportation and storage - all these stages depend in use of fossil fuel). Orchards, vineyards, fruit growing regions, potato farms, grain farms - they all rely on fossil fuel. Planes that dust crop, planes that induce rain, ploughing tractors, harvesting machinery, fertilizing systems for massive fields, processing plants - all these are just the beginning. In farms producing beef and dairy products, trucks and transport vehicles are just the beginning. Electrical fences, milking factories, dairy factories, abattoirs (slaughterhouses). - all these are run on electricity whether from the grid or produced by a generator. ...

Solution Summary

The solution is 2,322-word essay answering the questions enumerated in the original posting. The General topic is food consumption patterns that compare current practices to that of foragers, horticulturalist & pastoralist peoples/tribes. The role of fossil fuel is also discussed in the food production and consumption of modern people (American, in this case). Varied references and materials, both web and print are used. They are listed for expansion. The essay follows the APA format. A word version is attached for easy printing.