With increased globalization and improvement in transport and communication networks, it is now possible to enjoy delicacies produced from far parts of the world. However, it is only a fraction of people who understand the environmental and economic impacts of purchasing food products produced in far parts of the world. This is because majority of people dismiss the impacts of purchasing food from the global industrial system as trivial, forgetting that the effects are cumulative in nature. Current research indicates that purchasing food from the global industrial food system has significant implications in terms of food security, ensuring food safety, and economic as well as environmental impacts. Due to the significant negative impacts, consumers are encouraged to purchase locally grown foods. This paper examines the implications of a meal that we commonly eat involving eggs scrambled with cheese, bacon, and coffee.
The food items that I purchased include eggs scrambled with cheese, bacon, and coffee for breakfast. This comprises of four meal items. I purchased the items from The Kroger Company. A research of the leading egg suppliers in the United States gives companies located in the U.S., meaning that eggs are locally sourced. The top companies include Cal-Maine Foods with 34.2 million hens, Rose Acre Farms with 24.80 million hens, and the third company being Rembrandt Enterprises with 15.5 million hens “WATTAgNET,” n.d). The next item on my food list is cheese, which is obtained from milk. Most of the milk and milk products consumed in the U.S. are derived locally. The states with the highest milk production capacities include California, Wisconsin, and Idaho. Bacon is made from pigs. Pigs are locally reared in the United States. In addition, the U.S. export pork products to overseas markets such as Japan, Denmark, Brazil, and others. Due to unfavorable climate, the U.S. imports coffee from overseas countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Farming and Labor Practices
Chicken farming in the U.S. is mainly practiced in factory farms, although it is common in rural households. Factory farms produce the bulk of chicken required for their flesh and for eggs. In factory farming, chicken are kept in crowded conditions. One of the major environmental consequences of factory farming is production excess waste that surpasses land disposal methods. Poor manure management may lead to degradation of soil and water pollution (Gerber, Opio, & Steinfeld, 2007). Employees are at risk of pollutants especially ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and volatile organic compounds found in chicken waste. In the United States, dairy farming takes the form of factory farming, where cows are kept in dairy farms with limited movements. Daily farming affects the environment negatively. According to Thoma et al. (2008), dairy farming contributes to production of greenhouse gases especially methane that lead to global warming. Employees face the risk of pesticides used to spray the animals.
Pigs are mostly reared in factory farms. Workers in these factories are exposed to different toxins. For instance, factories have slotted floors, which means that employees must always come into contact with the manure. In addition, there is poor air quality in such factories. Pig factory farming presents an environmental issue due to the high waste produced. Lack of proper waste disposal leads to air, water and land pollution. Coffee is produced in large plantations. The impact of coffee production to individual workers is the presence of toxins in herbicides used to spray coffee bushes. Clearing of land to pave way for coffee plantations has led to destruction of natural habitats. It also contributes to climate change.
There is high energy consumption in shipping of all the ingredients. Eggs must be collected, packaged, and transported to the market. This adds to the carbon footprint. Milk production also adds to the carbon footprint during transportation. In addition, there are storage costs involved since milk is highly perishable. This calls for more energy in cooling the milk. Energy is used to move bacon products to end consumers. Coffee has higher energy consumption since it is transported over longer distances.
It is easier to process and package eggs. The various stages involved include collecting, weighing, storage, sorting, packaging, and transporting to the market. Milk processing takes place through a number of stages. These include milking, transportation, heat treatment, pasteurization, and processing. In the processing stages, various products such as ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, and fluid milk are produced. Bacon processing is lengthy and involves a number of procedures such as slaughter, exsanguination, scalding, and among others. Coffee production goes through a series of steps. The mature beans are harvested using specialized tractors. Labor intensive methods such as hand-picking are also common throughout the world. From harvesting, coffee beans are processed and then dried. This is followed by milling, tasting the coffee and finally roasting the coffee.
The eggs in bought were packed in plastic containers. These may contribute to environmental degradation since they may not decompose easily. Cheese is also packaged in plastic materials, which may be an eyesore especially if thrown away carelessly in the environment. Bacon is packaged in plastic bags. The coffee I bought was packaged in an environmentally friendly material that can take a shorter period to decompose.
Economic and Ecological Analysis
There are a number of benefits derived from purchasing food products that are sourced locally. In local food systems, food is distributed over shorter geographical distances. There are a number of ecological and economical benefits derived from purchasing local food products. First, it ensures sustainability. In local food systems, households are involved in production of food products on a smaller scale. This eliminates waste management issues. Another benefit is food safety and high nutritional value. With increased transportation of food products, the risk of contamination also increases. Local production ensures food security and supports local farmers (Local & Regional Food Systems, 2015). As such, local farmers improve their standards of living. Lastly, purchasing local foods reduces the carbon footprint due to reduced energy use in transportation. Purchasing imported food helps improve trade and develops multiculturalism. For instance, people are able to enjoy foods produced by other cultures. The negative consequence of this is the high carbon footprint involved.
Think Globally, Act Locally
The phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally” signifies the need to develop local solutions to the challenges in the globalized world (Think Global, Buy Local, 2014). With regard to food production, the phrase means that local farmers must develop local solutions to the food problems in their area. For instance, supposing my local area did not have eggs, cheese, bacon and coffee, there are a number of solutions that one may apply to these challenges. For example, if one relies on importing eggs, then it would be advisable to rear chickens for local eggs production. If there is no bacon in the local region, one may opt for bacon substitutes such as peanut butter, seitan bacon, and others. If cheese is not produced locally, one can opt for soy brands. A good alternative for coffee would be tea.
In conclusion, it is important for individuals to change their consumption habits. This will significantly reduce environmental as well as economic impacts. Individuals are encouraged to rely on local food systems where food is produced and consumed within one’s locality. In globalized systems, there are high transportation costs and energy involved in moving the foods from the production point to the point of consumption. Thus due to the high negative impacts of the globalized system, consumers are encouraged to shift to local systems.
WATTAgNET. (n.d). Top 21 U.S. egg company profiles. Retrieved from http://www.wattagnet.com/articles/22096-top-21-u-s-egg-company-profiles
Gerber, P., Opio, C., & Steinfeld. H. (2007). Poultry production and the environment – a review. Poultry in the 21st Century. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/home/events/bangkok2007/docs/part2/2_2.pdf
Thoma, G., Popp, J., Nutter, D. et al. (2008). Greenhouse gas emissions from milk production and consumption in the United States: A cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment circa 2008. International Dairy Journal, 10(8): 3 – 14.
Local & Regional Food Systems. (2015). Retrieved fromhttp://www.sustainabletable.org/254/local-regional-food-systems
Think Global, Buy Local: A new study looks at the impact of buying local produce on local economies. (2014). Retrieved from http://foodtank.com/news/2014/04/think-global-buy-local-a-new-study-looks-at-the-impact-of-buying-local-prod