How Consequences Almost Always Accompany the Benefits
Mass food production has seemingly become a necessity to meet the growing demands of the world population. While industrial agriculture and the mass production of animal food products are critical elements of the global food supply chain, some production methods have shown significant cause for concern, specifically with human and environmental health. Below, we discuss the benefits and consequences of today’s mass food production industry and how we may need to consider alternatives to past and current industrial-level production methods.
Mass Food Production Benefits
Many benefits come from the mass food production industry, and while they often come with a dark side, some of the pros outweigh the cons by enough to keep the production lines running.
Lower Consumer Costs and Increased Availability
Among the most significant benefits of mass food production are reduced food costs. Whether dealing with crop or animal agriculture, industrial farming allows companies to produce a single food product at low costs due to the limited variability of labor, equipment, and product overhead. Industrial agriculture uses modern technology and high-end equipment to produce and process meat, dairy, eggs, crops, and other foods quickly and efficiently. By increasing efficiency and reducing food production costs, consumers benefit from lower food prices and increased food availability. On average, Americans spend more than 8% of their disposable income on low-cost food items every year – showing just how much production potential there is, even in a small niche market.
More than 19 million US citizens were employed in the agriculture and food industries in 2020, accounting for over 10% of the country’s workforce. While not all of these jobs fall within the bounds of mass food production, they all stem directly or indirectly from the food production industry. In the US in 2019:
- The frozen food production industry employed more than 94,000 people.
- The food processing industry employed approximately 138,000 people.
- The US Food and Beverage production industry employed over 1.7 million people.
Technological Development and Innovation
The mass production of food relies heavily on advanced technology, both in agriculture and food processing, pushing scientists and engineers to innovate and build on current industry solutions. Agricultural machinery streamlines planting, harvesting, and maintenance, while new advanced processing machinery can break down crops and turn them into marketable products for direct consumption. From farm to factory, technology drives all modern-day processes, especially in the food production industry.
Mass Food Production Consequences
The benefits of mass food production rarely come without consequences. From environmental degradation to the negative impacts on human health, we will need to tread lightly through the future of food production to avoid unsustainable practices on local and global levels.
Around the world, humans farm more than 70 billion animals for food products each year. With so many animals produced for food, it’s hard to manage the waste runoff from these farms. The waste ends up in our waterways, contributing to local and global water pollution. The soil also suffers from runoff, as too many nutrients flood the ground – making the land unusable for future food production purposes.
Food production plants also contribute to environmental decline. The energy required to manufacture these food products most often comes from fossil fuels – contributing significantly to atmospheric pollution via greenhouse gases. In fact, food production accounts for nearly 37% of the global greenhouse gas emissions – showing just how much impact our diets have on our climate and global environmental health.
Human Health and Obesity
Aside from the environmental impacts of food production, mass production methods often result in highly processed foods, many of which contain large amounts of sodium and have diminished nutritional values. Low-income communities are commonly flooded with junk food, as the products are the most affordable. The problem is, the cheaper the food, the less nutritional density it has – generally speaking. More than 2% of all US households live in low-income or rural areas more than 10 miles from a major supermarket – making nutritional, healthy food products far less accessible than they need to be.