Thinking sustainable change of "food industry"
From a perspective of a former chef, current consumer, who is born on countryside; I see a lot of improvements to make in the field of food industry. This essay focuses on thinking challenges and changes to make, I see in food industry, based mostly on information that I learned from course: Leadership for sustainable change. I view “food industry” on this essay as a whole process from field to table.
Where is the problem?
Food production starts from the fields, which means we must consider also agricultures as use of resources. One of the biggest issues of agriculture is use of soils. In Finland we cannot use soils but a part of year, what helps not to overload them. But we still use a lot of fertilizers that won’t only effect on soils by decreasing moisture, but in Finland field are usually very close to waters. Even tough EU has set limits how far from the farming can happen from lakes; where I’m from, the lakes are quickly eutrophic. And big reason for it are the fertilizes used on fields. I’m still not sure if organic farming is the solution for it causes smaller harvests (specially now I see it as a problem when we’ve had few very dry summers that has decreased the harvest) and usually organic farmers drive more several times organic fertilizers than “regular” farmers, what increases the use of fuel and CO2. Are the results +-0? Number of human kind are rising, can we feed us all with organic farming?
The biggest issue for me is the use of unneeded materials in food production, overproduction and import. There is a lot of energy used to pack fresh ingredients. The material of package is usually plastic (non-renewable resources) and gives no extra value for a product. Only extra waste. For example, washed herbs packed in plastic comes to restaurant often partly molted for they are packed still moist. The circle goes on to retail, where the leftover food is thrown away, with their packages on, to secondary biowaste. There are not many retailers yet to recycle plastic. At least not the big ones.
Here is so much unnecessary resources and energy used that causes extra pollution.
Then there is transportation that I think may have the requested particularly strong impact. A huge amount of what we can find from our supermarkets, are from abroad and outside of Europe. Transportation also causes a lot of greenhouse gases as well on ground than on a sea and air. Our transportation is still mainly running with fossil fuels. And in addition of freeing greenhouse gases and polluting sea, getting those fossil fuels has it own problems for pollution.
Looking this whole system, it is hard to notice one big cause of problems for the whole system has to change. Retailers have the biggest power. They have the power to choose what to sell and it would change the actions farmers as well as consumers. Consumers will create the demand, but they will also follow. For the knowledge is available but there are just too many everyday choices to make for average individual.
Even if the food industry’s problems can be seen this clear, changing food industry is something that is called a wicked problem. (Wicked problems)
Food industry’s sustainability effects are a wicked problem for there are really no one answer how it could be bettered and how changing the system would affect and to what. Every choice will affects on everything and maybe in some unexpected ways. Effects of farming and transporting food are also very difficult to define. It may have effects on various things we can’t imagine.
For example, organic farming produces less, and smaller harvest and the farmers usually use organic fertilizer more several times than regular farmers. What means more use of fossil fuels and CO2 pollution. Smaller harvest means that farming must be made in bigger area to get equal amount of harvest. what means more need of land for farming. In the other hand the use of non-organic fertilizers cause unsustainability for soils in general and on a long term they then may be in no condition for use.
If most food would be close produced, it would be a better choice in view of transportation emissions. But if the extreme conditions of weather continue to evolve like they have, it is not possible to feed people nutritiously with the own country production. How many countries can provide more food than it’s own use? If Finnish people would eat only Finnish food around the year, would there be some extra? Total locality then, could also provide some kind of social inequalities and fasten emigration. What of has its own effects on everything.
I see ideal future food retail concept that makes the “good decisions” for the consumer. It offers local food with only selected imported seasonal foods (that probably cause less carbon footprint like Spanish tomatoes on winter compared to Finnish greenhouse produced tomatoes). Foods are sold unpacked, so consumers can decide what amount they really need. With locality, the amount of waste is also more easy to control for the delivery time is faster and the selection is smaller. That would also mean need for less plantation and ease for soils. I also see weekly food orders or deliveries possible for future for anticipate the amount of use of ingredients and once again it would decrease the amount of waste and lower the costs. Economically and ecologically. I see this kind of positive treadmill of reducing.
Through this ideal concept idea, I found it easy to see different dimensions of sustainability by the effects of those actions; socio-cultural, economical and ecological. If the food sold is mostly local, it is good for local economy. I see it would also decrease the prices, what would allow also people in lower economy class to consume local products instead of only mass produced and processed food. At the moment it is the other way around. The most healthy foods are the most costly. I love the idea of locality for it also can be scaled all over the world.
Course: Leadership for sustainable change
Wicked problems. Wicked problems. Seen 1.10.2018