Whilst the industrialisation of the food industry has created a wide variety of systemic problems, the solutions can also be systemic.
For example, moving back to small-scale, organic farming and craft food production would create a comprehensive range of systemic benefits as described below in the comparison with industrial farming.
|Creates systemic problems|
typified by large-scale, standardisation, monoculture, high energy, high synthetic inputs, centralised, automated, inhumane, unhealthy, destructive
|Creates systemic solutions|
typified by small scale, diversity, low energy, fewer synthetic inputs, organic, local, labour-intense, humane, healthy and constructive
About one-fifth of all energy used in western economies is for growing, processing and distribution of food. In America today it takes approximately 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy.
Significantly less fossil fuel use, and energy use generally.
|Reduces soil fertility|
Industrial farming methods change the profile of soils and strip the soil of nutrients, both organic and inorganic. Sick soils become less and less productive and require increasing inputs. In some cases, land has to be ‘retired out’ which can result in erosion and even the desertification of previously fertile land.
|Increases soil fertility|
Organic farming works more like nature. It builds up the health of the soil, mitigating the need for synthetic fertilisers. Organic content in the soil also sequesters carbon. Eminent soil scientist Dr Ratan Lal has calculated that if all the arable soils on earth increased their carbon content by just 2%, that would sequester all the carbon emitted in a year.
|Automated and motorised|
Industrial farming has reduced the number of people working on the land. This has resulted in urban drift and the centralisation of food processing in cities.
Small scale farms employ more people because they are more labour intensive. Overall this would reduce unemployment in rural areas and also reduce urban drift from rural areas to overpopulated cities.
Industrial farming regularly uses inhumane methods such as battery farmed hens, caged pigs, and feedlots for cattle.
Fresh, local, organic food is more healthy than processed food. Our diets and general health would be improved and many modern lifestyle diseases would be reduced.
Industrial farming encourages the standardisation of food crops. Just three crops – wheat, rice and corn – make up 43% of all the food that is eaten in the world.
Small-scale farming leads to a wider variety of produce, even on a single farm because they use intensive farming techniques rather than extensive ones. Local and traditional tastes are catered for and hierloom varieties of produce are grown.
When food is processed in central-hub cities and then distributed far and wide, even globally, there are a lot of unnecessary food miles added.
Local food creates community and connection. It helps local economies. It reduces food miles. It lends itself to local craft production.
The industrial food system tends to supply unnecessary, excess packaging
There would be much less packaging because fresh, raw food has less packaging. Branding won’t be king! Also with more food being sold locally in farmers markets and produce markets
The industrial food system processes food to such a point that you don’t need to do any preparation at home, just heat it up.
Preparing meals from raw ingredients is ‘taking the value added back’ as EF Schumacher said. In his terms, it is ‘good work’. Preparing meals is creative and fulfilling in a way that ready-made meals could never be. It is a form of love for your family and friends.