Food in the Future : energy and transport in the food system

Abstract: This thesis explores possible future forms of a sustainable food supply system from an energy aspect. Particular attention is devoted to local food supply as a means to reduce energy use for transport. The thesis consists of a covering essay and three studies: one futures study of the entire food supply system and two case studies of local farming. The results from the three studies had somewhat different characters, but provided suggestions on how the food system could be more energy-efficient. The futures study, which was on a more comprehensive level than the two case studies, included a full account of energy use for the food supply system in Sweden for the year 2000 and an exploration of future sustainable energy use in the shape of an image of the future. The two case studies provided indications on the potential for reduction in energy use for transport through local food supply in the future. The futures study explored the possibilities of reducing the energy use for food to a level that would be sustainable with regard to energy use. This meant generating an image of the future where energy use for eating was 60% lower in 2050 than in 2000. Sweden was used as the case and all data regarding energy use were for Swedish conditions. The existing possibilities to reduce energy used in the food supply system for producing, transporting, storing, cooking and eating food were explored and described in terms of a number of distinct, consecutively numbered ‘Changes’. These changes were presented in both a quantitative and qualitative way but should not be regarded as forecasts. Instead, they provide an illustration of the kinds of changes needed in order to achieve sustainable energy use in the food system. The outcome from the two case studies was that energy use for local food distribution was not obviously lower than that for conventional food transport. This may be surprising to many, since it is generally argued in the public debate that local food supply is a powerful means to reduce energy use in the food system. From an energy point of view, it could be more relevant to use a parameter based on the energy use per quantity of food instead of transport distance. An appropriate approach would therefore be energy-efficient food supply instead of local food supply. This would allow concerned consumers to make appropriate choices when purchasing food.