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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interesting observation on the food supply

"I spent about thirty years working in commercial agribusiness. My main job was to purchase ingredients, mainly grain, for flour mills and animal feed mills. As a part of my job I was forced to understand the US food supply system, its strengths and weaknesses. Over the years I became aware of some things that nearly all Americans are completely unaware of. I am going to make a list of statements and then you will see where I'm going.

            --1% of the US population grows all of the food for all

            --Nearly all Americans know essentially nothing about where
               the food they eat every day comes from. How it gets from the
               ground to them. And they don't want to know about it. It's
               cheap, as close as their local store, and of high quality. So
               no worries.

            --The bulk of the food we eat comes from grain. Although
               they raise a lot of fruits and vegetables in California, Arizona,
               Florida, Oregon and Washington, those things don't compose
               the main part of the average diet. Half of what a meat animal
               is raised on is grain so when you eat meat you are really
               eating grain. And, of course, we eat grain directly as bread,
               bagels, doughnuts, pasta, etc. Milk (and milk products like
               cheese) comes from cows that eat grain. A lot of grain. And
               the grain they eat is not produced where the cows are located.

            --The lion's share of grain produced in the US is done in a
               concentrated part of the US Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas,
               Missouri is the center of this area). The grain is moved to the
               coasts (where 70% of the population live) by only two (2)

            --Nothing is stored for very long in a supermarket. One day
               grain travels (by rail) from Kansas to Seattle to a flour mill.
               The next day the flour mill makes the flour and sends it to a
               bakery. The next day the bakery makes it into bread (and
               other baked things) and the next day it is at the store where
               it is purchased that day. Nobody stores anything. The grain
               is produced and stored in the Midwest and shipped daily in
               a single pipeline to the rest of America where the people live.

            --Up until the 1980's there was a system that stored a lot of
               grain in elevators around the country. At one time a whole
               year's harvest of grain was stored that way. But since tax-
               payers were paying to store it, certain urban politicians
               engineered the movement of that money from providing a
               safety net or backup for their own food supply in order to
               give the money to various other social welfare things. So
               now, nothing is stored. We produce what we consume each
               year and store practically none of it. There is no contingency

(From Amy:  Reading this makes me feel very vulnerable.  Any disaster could cut off the transportation of our food.  And we have no backup plan for droughts or any type of crop failure.  Doesn't this make you want to have food stored in your own house? )

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