Energy use in agriculture has dramatically increased together with mechanization and use of chemicals. Significant insights will be given for specific vegetal and animal products. An even greater amount of energy is consumed for food processing, logistics and distribution, mainly for refrigeration. An insight will be given for the US food supply chain.
All these inputs contribute to an exosomatic energy burden which may be thought as embodied in food, even if it doesn’t contribute to its nutritional (endosomatic) value.
The endosomatic/exosomatic energy framework is useful in order to acquire a clear perception of the environmental impact of the food consumed by different human groups. Just imagine the effect of printing “exosomatic calories” on the nutritional facts label: consumers would become more and more aware of the hidden energy burden of food and of the differences between products (animal vs vegetal, chemical vs organic).
The improvement of the exosomatic energy efficiency in food production and the transition to renewable sources is crucial for the reduction of the carbon footprint and the overall sustainability of the supply chain. Examples will be given from organic farming and on-site energy production. This framework is also useful in addressing the complex issue of food waste. When food is wasted, not only money is spoiled, but also all the energy embodied up to the point where it is wasted.