Energy consumption across the food supply chain Collection systems (Study conducted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) in California
The study comparatively assessed the energy consumption of fresh, frozen and canned food delivery systems, quantifying the energy requirements at each stage from farm to plate. Two delivery formats – bulk and portion servings were compared across a series of packaging/processing combinations including bulk refrigerated product (e.g. green beans, broccoli, asparagus) in coated cardboard; frozen products in different packaging formats; canned ready meals and canned products. The various stages included growing/harvesting, food processing, production of sales & transport packaging, transporting from field to end consumer, storing for wholesale and retail distribution, as well as home storage and preparing the food in kitchens.
Taking the full process – from farm to fork – into account, the study clearly reveals that canned foods offer the most energy effective method for product delivery. The most energy intensive methods, frozen bagged and boxed product, require over 100% more energy to bring the food from farm to table than the less energy intensive bulk and canned meals.
Why is this? Firstly, in terms of food processing, the energy inputs for canning are significantly less than those reported for frozen goods. Secondly, due to its compact and stackable container designs it enables more food to be transported in limited volume with less transport packaging. Thirdly, being stored at ambient temperature, canned food is totally independent of refrigeration.