Unless you buy directly from a farm or raise your own meat or produce, you probably don’t think much about how your food gets from the producers to your pantry. In today’s international world, the process can be quite involved. Here are a few things you might not know about the process.
Different types of products require different forms of transportation. For example, special refrigerated tank truck drivers transport milk from dairy farm to packaging plant, large compartmentalized livestock trailers are driven to move meat animals from ranch to meat plant and hopper bottom jobs (using trucks that open at the bottom for unloading) are required for taking grains and seeds to the grower to the processer. Almost every type of grocery item you buy requires its own specialized truck to transport it.
On average, food in the United States travels approximately 1500 miles from farm to consumer. This allows customers to have a very wide selection of groceries available to them, but it also means that significant resources must be used to transport food from place to place. At the same time, the ability to ship food long distances allows farmers in lower-class countries a means of earning a decent income. Furthermore, it provides year-round access to healthy foods that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to grow in local regions during certain seasons.
Complex Supply Chain
While many people don’t care much about the food supply chain, they do care when something causes a hiccup in production that cascades down the chain. This is what many people feared (or, in some places, actually happened) when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When farms and factories had to limit their staff, production temporarily slowed, causing shortages of certain types of food in some regions. However, in general, the supply chain does work pretty seamlessly, bring a steady flow of fresh and prepared groceries to customers worldwide. The food supply chain is multifaceted, first involving inputs of seeds or breeding animals, machines and fertilizer or animal feed for farmers. Next comes the production phase, where farmers plant, grow and harvest their crops or raise their animals. Then, the crops, animal products or animals themselves are shipped to processing plants. Finally, the finished products are delivered to grocery stores.
The journey of groceries from farm to fork is a complex one. With many different variables affecting the trip from farmer to consumer, it’s almost a miracle that we have access to the countless foods available to us.