It seems that the sensationalist title of the Ottawa Citizen article was
a little out of context from what the scientist intended how his study
should be interpreted. Dr. Coley says people should not view his study
as an argument for or against any particular type of food. The study
only looks at the amount of energy used in processing and transporting
the food you buy. He was quoted as saying "Go for simply made, locally
produced food. By choosing carefully, you can make a big impact on the
environment without a big impact on your dinner plate."
I guess when you put together industrial food production systems,
globalization of trade and "value added" processing you are bound to get
some pretty bad numbers when it comes to energy output: input
efficiency. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that the food system in
North America uses over 15% of its total energy.
I would like to see a study that compared the energy requirements and
ecological footprint of a seasonal eating vegetarian who had a cold
frame in their back yard garden, did sprouting in the winter and/or
purchased vegetables from a local CSA with the average North American
I don't think we have seen enough discussion on SANET about food choices
and how they relate to sustainable agriculture. Too often we are trying
to solve the problems created by industrial agricultural systems instead
of trying to redesign a food system that actually could be considered a
reasonably intelligent way to nourish our bodies and live on this
Resource Efficient Agricultural Production (REAP)-Canada
Ste Anne de Bellevue, Quebec
Craig Harris wrote:
> i haven't read the new scientist article, but i thought this summary
> it might be interest to saneters
> REVENGE OF THE BEEFEATERS - STUDY SAYS PRODUCTION OF VEGETARIAN
> LESS ENERGY-EFFICIENT
> December 4, 1997
> The Ottawa Citizen
> Mark Hill
> A new study reported in this week's New Scientist magazine by Dr.
> Coley, a researcher at the Centre for Energy and the Environment at
> University of Exeter in Britain was cited in this story as saying that
> calorie for calorie, meat and highly processed foods use far less
> to produce calories than "healthier" alternatives.
> The study found, for example, that it takes eight mega-joules of
> produce, package, transport and sell enough beef to yield one
> of energy from consuming the beef. But it takes 45 mega-joules to
> one mega-joule's worth of caloric energy from vegetables.
> Fresh fruit was another inefficient food, using between 10mega-joules
> 22 mega-joules, while sugar, candy, potato chips, white bread and ice
> cream needed less than one mega-joule.
> Peter McQueen, co-ordinator of the 34th annual World Vegetarian
> was cited as saying the study measures the energy from food when it
> have measured nutrition.
> Jim Caldwell of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association was cited as
> that it is far more efficiant to produce meat than to produce fruits
> and vegetables because vegetables are grown on high-quality farmland,
> using plenty of chemicals and fertilizers. Beef cattle, on the other
> graze on poor-quality land, eat grass that grows naturally and "any
> fertilizer they need, they produce themselves."
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