Increasing Percentage of Energy Use Going to Food Production

New ERS report tracks energy needed to produce and distribute food.

Published on: Mar 16, 2010

Even while Carolina-Virginia farmers join other agricultural producers across the country to help ease the energy crunch by producing more biofuels, a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that energy used in another major emphases of the industry, to produce and distribute food in the U.S., is growing as a percentage of total energy use in the country, not diminishing.

The report "Energy Use in the U.S. Food System" summarizes and compares energy use in the food supply chain in 1997 and 2002, as well as projected industry-related energy use for 2007.

Authors of the report, including Patrick Canning, Ainsley Charles, Sonya Huang and others, determined that from 1997 to 2002 U.S. overall per capita energy use declined by 1.8%, but per capita food related energy use in the country increased by 16.4%. With a total population growth of over 14 million people during that period, total energy use went up by 3.3%: Total food-related energy use went up by 22.4%.

The report notes shifts from human labor into mechanized handling and manufacturing account for a good deal of the increased energy use.

Some of the largest percentage increases in food industry energy use for the period are attributed to vegetable and poultry products.

To learn more, download the full report from the USDA at