A food system is the path that food travels from conception in the field all the way to digestion in the stomach. This includes the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food. Also included is the inputs needed and outputs generated at each step of the process. Food systems directly relate to food sources.
This term is used often in discussions regarding nutrition, food, health, community economic development and agriculture. A food system includes all of the processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population.
A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and environmental contexts. Human resources providing labor, research and education are also required. Food systems are either conventional or alternative depending on their model of food lifespan from origin to plate.
Conventional Food Systems
Conventional food systems function under economies of scale. These food systems are geared toward a model of production that requires maximum efficiency to lower consumer costs and increase production as a whole. They utilize economic models including, vertical integration, economic specialization, and global trade. These conventional food systems are in direct contrast to alternative food systems.
Local Food Systems
One type of alternative food systems are local food systems. These are networks of food production and consumption aiming to be geographically and economically accessible. They directly contrast industrial food systems by operating with dramatically less transportation and more direct marketing. This leads to fewer people between the farmer and the consumer. This develops a local and fresh synergy.
Organic Food Systems
Another type of alternative food system is the organic food system. Organic food systems are defined by a decreased dependency on chemical use and an enhanced concern for transparency and infor. Organic produce is developed without the chemical pesticides and fertilizers of industrial food systems. Antibiotics and growth hormones are also alleviated with this type of livestock. This type of food system is often symbiotic with local food systems.