Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Organic Farming's Energy Efficiency

I subscribe to Stoneyfield Farm's monthly newsletter. For those not familiar with Stoneyfield, they are an organic yogurt producer in the United States (Western?). This month, they linked to a very interesting report by The Organic Center analyzing the energy consumption of our food supply, specifically comparing Organic production with non-organic production. The report provided greater insight into the industry, and gives me one more reason to buy organic.

You can access a 2 page summary here, or the full 40 page version here.

Some interesting statistic from the report

  • The American food system uses 19% of the nation's total fossil energy use - 7% for production, 7% for processing/packaging, and 5% for distribution.
  • It takes about 30% less energy to produce a bushel of organic corn, than a bushel of non-organic, although it requires 25% more labor.
  • It takes 20% less energy to produce organic soybeans than conventional.
  • The biggest difference is in nitrogen fertilizer consumption and pesticide use which is very dependent upon fossil fuels.
  • Soil erosion was significantly reduced in organic production.
  • Water resources were conserved in organic production. (organic farm yields were 30-50% higher in drought years than non-organic).
  • An organic grass fed beef operation requires 50% less fossil energy than conventional grain-fed systems.

It is a very interesting read.

Karyn and I have converted to organic foods as much as possible. This was before knowing the above facts. I hope we can continue to improve our food supply, and decrease our energy consumption in the process. Seems like a win-win to me.

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