This site aims to help you learn more about where your food comes from, and specifically how the industrial food complex (mass production of food) is impacting the quality of our lives. Explore the site or continue reading to answer the questions: What is mass food production, why does it matter, and how does it impact us?
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What Is Mass Food Production?
Mass food production is the process of turning raw ingredients into edible food products on a mass scale, meeting the needs of local and global consumer demands. Agricultural products, plant or animal, are commonly produced at industrial levels. We use these products to feed humans directly or supply food processes with enough resources to turn out food products on a global scale. While many assume that mass-scale food production automatically equates with unhealthy, highly-processed foods that contribute to food deserts, this is not always the case.
Benefits of mass food production include:
- Highly processed foods help feed rural populations and communities that lack resources like electricity and refrigeration to keep food safe for consumption in harsh environments.
- GMO crops make up for nutrient deficiencies that plague communities with disease and malnutrition.
- Food cost reduction and food availability benefit low-income communities with few other options.
Human populations benefit extensively through mass-scale food production, and we must continue to enhance technology and innovate ways to keep feeding global communities.
Read more: What Are Mass Produced Food Products?
The History of Mass Food Production
Humans have needed to feed vast amounts of people for centuries, dating back to ancient times. While modern-day mass food production involves heavy machinery, giant factories, and endless conveyor belts, the process to reach this point was long and alternate.
Extensive changes in human history directed us to produce foods in new and innovative ways.
- The industrial revolution started the movement toward technology and manufacturing-based food production, changing the food industry landscape forever.
- Large corporations saw the potential for profit with booming populations in cities across the US, creating a new landscape involving factory-based food production processes.
- Agricultural producers had new outlets to sell products on a massive scale – fueling the change toward some of the modern farming practices we still use today.
- World War 1 and 2 changed how the world produced and processed foods for long-term viability and consumption in harsh environments.
- Governments promoted new agricultural practices to citizens for stronger, more productive crops.
- Canned, highly processed, and dried food products gave soldiers a way to keep healthy and strong in times of limited resources.
- The Green Revolution brought many developing countries into the 20th century.
- Research brought new agricultural production methods and new crops strains that increased yields and efficiency in various environments.
Today, technology fuels the food production landscape. With the global demand for food close to satisfied, we can now focus on developing new ways to increase the nutrition and efficiency of different food products.
The Pros and Cons of Mass Food Production
Industrial agriculture and the mass production of animal food products are critical elements of the global food supply chain. Still, some production methods have shown significant cause for concern, specifically with human and environmental health. How can we objectively weigh the positives and negatives of food production and forge a path forward to a more sustainable food future? The best way is to gain a comprehensive understanding of food processes, human needs, and resource sustainability.
The Biggest Benefits of Mass Food Production
- Low Consumer Food Costs
- Increased Food Availability
- Industry Jobs
- Technological Development and Innovation
The Biggest Consequences of Mass Food Production
- Environmental Degradation
- Human Health and Obesity
- Economic Inequality
Read more: Pros and Cons of Mass Food Production
The Problems of Mass Food Production
We built the food production industry for scale and efficiency. While we benefit from lower food costs, food availability, and industry jobs, we suffer from the adverse secondary effects that often go unseen and result in human health decline and environmental degradation. Below, we outline some of the most apparent problems with the mass food production industry.
- Soil, Water, and Air Pollution
- Resource Depletion
- Logistical and Supply Chain Effects
- Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Other Harmful Chemicals
- Highly Processed and Low nutrient Density Foods
The Effects of Mass Food Production on Human Health
We cannot ignore the impacts that the industrial food system has on public health. While mass food production methods have positives and negatives on each side, we must begin to understand how these processes negatively impact our health and well-being on individual and community levels.
Genetic Engineering of Crops and Animals
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a hot topic in today’s food landscape. People often see GMOs as a plague on the food system, but that’s not always the case. Still, plenty of harmful factors accompany genetically modified organisms, especially in the agricultural and animal food production industries.
- Increased Risk of Cancer and Disease
- Increased Use of Chemical Products
- Natural Habitat Destruction
- Natural Flora Destruction
- Soil Microbial Imbalances
Antibiotics and Hormones in Industrial Farming
Industrial farms use antibiotics and hormones to increase growth rates and compensate for unsanitary animal living conditions. As a result, drug-resistant bacteria develop, enter our natural systems, and threaten human health through various processes.
- Contaminated Food Products
- Contaminated Natural Resources
- Human and Animal Development of Bacterial Immunity
Food additives can wreak havoc on human health when consumed regularly or in large quantities. Some of the most common food additives to avoid are:
- Artificial Food Coloring
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Sugar and Sweeteners
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Sodium Nitrite
Explore the site further to learn more about what mass food production is and how it impacts people and the environment. Or, check out these resources.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan – This narrative book examines fast food, industrial-scale agriculture, and small-scale organic agriculture, and discusses government policies surrounding food production in the U.S.
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser – This book focuses on the ethical and health impacts of fast food and fast food production.
“Food, Inc.” – This documentary examines corporate farming in America, and argues that mass produced, cheap foods have negative health, social, and environmental impacts. It is narrated by author Eric Schlosser and features experts in mass food production.
“Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret” – This documentary follows environmentalist filmmaker Kip Andersen as he investigates animal agriculture’s negative environmental impacts.
“Farm Food Facts” – This podcast by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action focuses on the intersection of agriculture and sustainability, covering a variety of topics ranging from biofuel to aquaculture.
“The Sustainable Food Trust Podcast” – This podcast focuses on the future of farming as it relates to sustainable farming systems. The podcast interviews experts in a variety of fields.
“Red to Green” – This podcast focuses on the intersection of food technology and sustainability, discussing innovations in agriculture and food production that leads us towards sustainability.