Saturday, June 30, 2007

UK Food System Energy Use

At the 8th ECEEE conference (June 4-7 2007), Rebecca White of the Environmental Change Insitute presented a paper entitled "Carbon governance from a systems perspective: an investigation of food production and consumption in the UK". The paper discusses the amount of energy used in UK's food system, and the percentage of total UK energy use, 10.8%, is very similar to the amount of energy found to be used in the U.S. food system as I discussed earlier. In the U.S. research shows that between 10-17% of U.S. total energy consumption is in the food system.

From White's report comes this graphic and quote:
"Table 1 shows a sectoral break down of energy use across the UK’s food system... As it stands, this equates to 10.8 % of the UK’s delivered energy consumption, excluding the air freight contribution. Further omissions include: energy used in fishing, in the production of plastic packaging and the off-farm storage of fresh fruit and vegetables, often imported, that can be stored and ripened in temperature controlled environments for considerable periods. Food related waste management has also been excluded. There is also some uncertainty around the numbers, in particular the amount of energy used to store food. Because storage occurs at a number of different points in the food chain, it is often not clear how this is allocated sector-wise. There are also very varying estimates of energy use in the retail sector. The figure used here is taken from the Food Industry Sustainability Strategy (DEFRA 2006), however an estimate from the DEFRA food miles report, published a year earlier, gives an estimate of 97.9 PJ. This alters the percentage of total UK energy use that food is responsible for to 11.8 % and increases the fossil carbon impact from 19.2 MtC to 22.9 MtC. With all figures presented in Table 1 only direct energy use on site and in the production of inputs has been included rather than any embodied energy in machinery or vehicles, which is usually included in food life cycle analyses (LCA)."

Source: Rebecca White, " Carbon governance from a systems perspective: an investigation of food production and consumption in the UK", Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, June 2007,

No comments: