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Sunday, March 26, 2006 

How much Oil in your Food?

A very interesting article in SFGate this morning about taking time to think about "consuming oil" in our daily "foodie" lives.

For decades, scientists have calculated how much fossil fuel goes into our food by measuring the amount of energy consumed in growing, packing, shipping, consuming and finally disposing of it. The caloric input of fossil fuel is then compared with the energy available in the edible product, the caloric output.

What they've discovered is astonishing. According to researchers at the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Agriculture, an average of more than 7 calories of fossil fuel is burned up for every calorie of energy we get from our food. This means that in eating my 400-calorie breakfast, I will, in effect, have consumed 2,800 calories of fossil fuel energy. (Some researchers claim the ratio is as high as 10 to 1.)

.....So how do you gauge how much oil went into your food?

First check out how far it traveled. The farther it went, the more oil it required. Next, gauge how much processing went into the food. A fresh apple is not processed, but Kellogg's Apple Jacks cereal requires enormous amounts of energy to process. The more processed the food, the more oil it requires. Then consider how much packaging is wrapped around your food. Buy fresh vegetables instead of canned, and buy bulk beans, grains, and flour if you want to reduce that packaging.

You may think you're in the clear because you eat strictly organically grown foods. When it comes to fossil-fuel calculations though, that isn't relevant. However it is grown, a raspberry is shipped, packed and chilled the same way.

do go read the entire article and think about it next time you are at the Farmer's Market or Grocery store.

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