Blog 08, Evolution of Food Distribution System

 

Describe the principal forces that have shaped the evolution of the US food distribution system in the past one hundred years (McLaughlin & Gomez, 2015).

 

The food system is constantly evolving. Food distribution includes all the processes between a production and consumption of food. For example, agricultural production, processing and manufacturing, food brokers, food wholesalers, food retailers, and food service outlets (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015). The current food distribution system has evolved significantly over the last 100 years. By 2007, the principal entities of the U.S. food distribution system employed 13 percent of US civilian force (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015). From the year 1954 to the year 2007, the U.S. food distribution system employee numbers increased from 8,875,925 to 19,615,279 respectively (USDA, 2009). Below is an infographic which explains the financial breakdown of the U.S. food system in 2010. The total value of food purchases by the U.S. consumers in 2010 was about $1.2 trillion (Gomez & Hernandez, 2013).

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Source:  (Gomez & Hernandez, 2013).

 

In the early 1900s, most of the food consumed in the United States was locally produced. Nearly all buyers and sellers including farmers, shippers, grain elevator operators, canners, brokers, truckers, various wholesalers, retailers, and eateries were independently run and poorly coordinated (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015). However, the dominance of the family farms and family firms reduced over time. The nineteenth-century industrial revolution and the emergence of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the twentieth century dramatically changed the farming in the United States (Francis, 2015). With these principal changes, a new era of the food distribution system started.

 

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Source: Gomez & Hernandez, 2013

By the middle of the twentieth century, dramatic structural and technological changes took place in the food distribution system. Agricultural techniques improved with the use of mechanical seeders, steel plow, and steam-powered threshers, allowing farmers to manage large farmlands (Francis, 2015). These advancements increased the agricultural productivity as new farming methods reshaped the multiple enterprise farms to larger more specialized farms, which focused on a limited number of commodities (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015). The average farm size increased from 100-200 acres to more than 400 acres (National Agricultural Statistics Service, 2009). These changes prompted the rise of industrial agriculture, which we presently experience.

Traditionally, locally produced commodities and products were used for consumption by local communities and raising livestock. However, now, products or commodities from industrial farms enter distribution system to be transported from the farm to production of biofuels, domestic consumption, livestock feed, and export. As farm productivity increased, the need for achieving efficiency in transport, refrigeration, storage, packaging, and selling techniques also increased to handle the increased volume of food entering the food distribution system.

In early twentieth century, “service grocery stores” dominated the food markets. But, this changed with increased consumer demand for the availability of “one-stop shopping” stores (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015).  Also, labor became more expensive, revolutionary “supermarkets” were conceived. This was among the most important developments in the history of US food distribution system in the past one hundred years, which shaped the system the way it is now. In the 1950s, Supermarkets were roughly 13,600 square feet which rapidly grew to more than 200,000 square feet by the year 2000 (Mclaughlin & Gomez, 2015). As store area increased, their capacity to accommodate more products, departments, and services increased with it. This revolutionary change in food retail brought insurgent change in US food distribution system.

In the early 1900s, food consumption outside of the home accounted for 10 percent of all consumer expenditure and more than one hundred years later, consumer expenditure on outside food increased to almost 50 percent in 2010 (USDA, 2013). The increasing consumption of outside food increased parallel with increasing food service sector.

All of these core changes in the system also triggered the changes in how food is transported to the consumers via markets. Technological advances in food processing and transportation with decreasing oil prices have allowed industries to move greater quantities of food faster and over longer distances than ever before possible (Halweil, 2002). Technological advances such as refrigerated trucks, have allowed industries to transport perishable foods like meat, eggs, and produce over longer distances (Martinez et al., 2010). The distance food is transported or traveled from, where it is grown or raised, to where it is purchased and consumed by consumers is called “the food miles”. The food miles have increased significantly in last one hundred years. With increasing urban population with no space for farming or food production locally, the transportation of the foods or food miles were bound to increase.

Since the 1970s, there has been a resurgence of activity by small- and mid- scale farmers producing fruits, vegetable, specialty crops, and livestock for local and regional markets. These farms often focus on direct sale to consumers through farmer’s market, farm stands, and community supported agriculture (Francis, 2015).  Direct sale to consumers via farm to institution program, restaurants and, through conventional grocery channels are also popular. More technological advances, changing consumer needs, evolving social conditions, and environmental impacts will shape the future agricultural practices (Francis, 2015). We can expect that the food distribution system will keep evolving over the coming years and decades.

 

 

References,

Francis, C. A. (2015). Crop Production and Food Systems. In R. A. Neff (Ed.), Introduction to the US Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity (pp. 265-287). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gomez, M. I., & Hernandez, J. N. (2013). The US Food Distribution System: Concepts and Evolution. Retrieved from http://www.hort.cornell.edu/bjorkman/lab/broccoli/Reports/Webinar_US_Distribution_System.pdf

Halweil, B., Prugh, T., & Worldwatch Institute. (2002). Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute.

Martinez, S., Hand, M., Da Pra, M., Pollack, S., Ralston, K., Smith, T., Vogel, S., Clark, S., Lohr, L., Low, S., & Newman, C. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. Washington, DC.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.

McLaughlin, E. W., & Gomez, M. I. (2015). Food Distribution. R. A. Neff (Ed.), Introduction to the US Food System: Public Health, Environment, and Equity (pp. 345-370). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. (2013). Food Expenditure Series. Retrieved from www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2013-august/price-inflation-for-food-outpacing-many-other-spending-categories.aspx#.U1a1Wvk7u-1

US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. (2009). Trends in US Agriculture. Retrieved from www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Trends_in_U.S._Agriculture/Farm_Population/index.asp

11 thoughts on “Blog 08, Evolution of Food Distribution System

  1. Rucha – this was a really good overview of the food distribution system. I’ll write more later, but just wanted to comment that it made me think about the whole Chipolte carnitas issues. Are you familiar with it? Many Chipotles stopped serving carnitas (pork) after they cut ties with one of their main supplies. They found out the supplier was not meeting their standards in terms of animal welfare (they raised them though conventional standards like what was discussed in ch 12). It took a while for Chipotle to find new local suppliers who would meet their demands. It makes me wonder if the demands by companies like Chipotle for more environmental/ethical agricultural practices will lead to changes in the distribution system? If more companies seek local producers rather than relying on cross-county shipment of food it would help to support growth of smaller regional farms over large industrial agriculture.

    1. Hey Jodi,

      Sorry for late reply. Yes, I have heard about it. After that incident, they changed their meat suppliers to UK based suppliers Karro food and Tulip, which produce meat with motto “whatever is best for animals”. I think you are absolutely right. If the demands for humanely raised meats increases and well known food companies like Chipotle are involved, we may be able to see environmentally sustainable and ethical agricultural practices. These practices will definitely briung revolutionary changes in the food distribution system. However, that makes me wonder—I’ve always noticed the products produced outside conventional production to be expensive. So, is there a possibility that there will be a resistance from general public who may not be able to afford these products?

      1. I feel like Chipolte, in general, is kind of a yuppie place – I tend to see them in trendy, more upper-class type neighborhoods as opposed to low-income, inner-city, etc (in Richmond we have one in Carytown and one on campus, that’s it, the rest are out in the ‘burbs) – so I feel like they’re marketing to a demographic that is more willing to pay a little more. But I agree, getting more eco-friendly and healthier foods to a wider demographic of the population is challenging because the higher costs of production of the food will price out lower-income people.

  2. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused
    Thesis is well-articulated in your argument. Your writing is clearly focused. You have provided the reader with a very clear understanding of the factors affecting the U.S. food system over time with well structured writing, concise and accurate information and references and images that fully support your writing.
    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written
    Essay is organized logically and is very well-written. You have structured your essay very well, providing for ease of reading and comprehending. Your argument makes clear sense and is structured to provide reader with appropriate breaks and supporting images.
    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay
    References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of your essay. References directly relate to content of the argument and the information contained in references upon review fully support the thesis of the essay. Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture references provided high quality, valid information to support your argument-great web reference.
    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity.
    Additional sources are of professional quality and quantity. You provided 7 references, all of which provided substance to support your argument. Using multiple text chapters was effective in using past text content and including professional references. Web based references were of professional quality and images provided valuable visual for understanding the pathway from raw materials to consumers-great graphic organizer.
    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature
    Argument is well-made, your writing was convincing in explaining the evolution of the U.S. food system over time. Your use of the literature to support your argument was effective, your writing style and structure made your argument easy to understand and follow. Your visuals help support your argument by clarifying the systems in place to go from raw materials to consumer purchase.
    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    Conclusion emerged logically from evidence presented. Throughout your argument you provided valuable information in understanding the transition in the U.S. food system, with effective visuals, and concise writing that was well structured. Your closing paragraph provided a logical conclusion, including various factors that will shape the agricultural practices of tomorrow.
    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct. The resources you are utilizing to format your in text citations and bibliographic information are allowing you to format all references correctly.

    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Your argument was very well organized, contained no grammar or spelling errors, and was very well structured. Great images to support your argument. They contained not just an image but information regarding variables involved in food production and distribution.

  3. 1. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused
    Your thesis clearly states the purpose and direction of your essay.
    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written
    By progressing chronologically the organization falls into place naturally. You approach the different changing aspects of food production and distribution well.
    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay
    The references are very good.
    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    The graphics you found are excellent. I especially like the pipeline one.
    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature
    Your sources support your argument well.
    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    Your conclusion is strong, and focuses not only on the past, but touches on the present and future as well, which ties to the chronological progression well.
    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    All is in order.
    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    Grammar, spelling and sentence structure are all mistake free.

    I thought you tied all the changes that have happened to the food system together really well. It’s not just the technology that changed, but how it’s sold to consumers as well. While I can’t say I was shocked by the amount spent by Americans on prepared food outside the home, it was still disturbing to see the hard data.

    1. Thank you for your critique Heidi. I agree with you, I was also shocked to see the data on increased expenditure on the food that’s prepared outside home.

  4. 1. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused
    Yes, I knew you were going to discuss the developments of food distribution based on your thesis.

    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written

    Yes! This was very easy to read with minor grammatical errors. It flowed nicely and there wasn’t any confusion in what you were trying to say making it easy to focus completely on the content.

    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay
    Yes.

    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    Yes, the images allowed for further reiteration of the point you were trying to make.

    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature
    Yes.

    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    Once the final paragraph is broken down into two, then the conclusion will be strong and summarize the information presented. I would build on the first two sentences to add some additional information to P8.

    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    Yes.

    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    P1, S2: Write out ‘and’ instead of using an ampersand.
    P1, S5: I would reword this to, “Below is an infographic, explaining the financial breakdown…” versus saying it in first person. I don’t know if this is something Dr. Creighton-Zollar agrees with or not, just my personal take on the situation. I was always taught to keep ‘I’ out of papers unless it specifically asks for your opinion and even in those cases it’s dependent on the topic because you can express your opinion without having ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’ in it.
    P3, Last sentence: ‘changed’ should be ‘changes’
    P5, S2: Change ‘that’ to ‘this’. Change the sentence to “But, this change with increased consumer demand for the availability of…” doing this will make it less wordy and increase flow.
    P5, S5, L2: “…departments and, services increased…” should be ‘…departments, and services increased…”
    P7, S1: add ‘of’ in between ‘all’ and ‘these’
    P7, S3: add commas around ‘such as refrigerated trucks’
    P7, S8: add commas around ‘or traveled from’ or simply eliminate this portion. The sentence reads well without the clause and I feel it makes it wordy.
    P8, S2, L2: Move the comma after ‘and’ to the front of it.
    P8, S3: Move the comma after ‘and’ to the front of it.
    P8: Break this paragraph into two after your first reference of Francis, 2015. With the first two sentences, you’re introducing additional information which is incorrect for a conclusion. By breaking it into two, the start of S3 will be your conclusion.

    This was my favorite blog by you so far. It was informative, very well written, and when you combine these two, it makes it incredibly easy to read which allows readers to focus on the information presented, versus the errors in the text.

  5. 1. Thesis is well-articulated and clearly focused
    Your thesis was clearly defined. You explained that the purpose of the essay was to explore the history of the food production system and the main contributors of changes to the system.

    2. Essay is organized logically and very well-written
    Your essay had good flow and good transition between paragraphs. One thing that you might want to consider is organizing the discussion chronologically since you are describing the history. For example, one paragraph starts with discussion of mid-20th century, but then two paragraphs down you start with early 20th century. You chunked the material by concept rather than by chronology, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider.

    3. References cited are focused and fully support the thesis of the essay
    Good use of references.

    4. Additional sources are of professional quality and where necessary, quantity
    I like the first graphics and thought it was useful for envisioning the food distribution system. The second graphic was interesting, but it wasn’t mentioned or referenced anywhere – a clearer link to how it relates to your essay would be helpful
    5. Argument is well-made with adequate support from the literature

    You provided a thorough overview of changes to the food distribution system from farms to transport to market and discussed how new technologies in all these areas drove the changes. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that people eat out more now than they had in the past and how that effects the food system. From my personal experience working in restaurants, many restaurants are looking for the cheapest food they can get (e.g. Sysco) so they can make more money from it, so I can see how the food service industry can so significantly impact the food system – what is grown, how it is processed, etc.

    6. Conclusion emerges logically from evidence presented
    Your conclusion was logical – You noted how things are coming full circle and people are becoming more interested in local/regional markets again. The system will continue to change to meet our demands.

    7. Bibliographic format and internal referencing are correct
    Looks good.

    8. Essay includes clean and proofed grammar, spelling and sentence structure.
    A couple grammatical things:
    “The food distribution includes all the processes”….start the sentence with “Food” (delete “the”) –or- add “system” – “the food distribution system”

    “Traditionally, locally produced commodities and products were used for consumption of local communities and raising livestock.” I think you mean consumption BY local communities.

    “But, this change with increased consumer demand for the availability of “one-stop shopping” stores” – changED

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