The modern food and agricultural system requires enormous amounts of energy, mostly in the form of fossil fuels, to run.
About 17 percent of America’s energy resources go into producing and operating oversize farm equipment, center-pivot irrigation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, food processing, food distribution, consumer shopping, food preparation and cooking, and other aspects of food production. The two largest energy users are the meat and meat products industry and the sugar processing industry, followed closely by soft drinks and beverages. This type of system is very wasteful of energy. For example, in the Midwest, farmers require from 5 to 12 calories of petroleum for every 1 calorie of food produced. In contrast, traditional societies using labor-intensive cultivation techniques and small, appropriate technological methods can produce 3 to 10 calories of food for every 1 calorie of energy expended. In addition, about 24 percent of all the food produced in the United States is later wasted due to poor and inefficient harvesting techniques, transportation, storage, processing, marketing, and kitchen and plate waste.
Under a more natural and organic system of food production and delivery, reduced processing and packaging of foods, independence from chemical, oil-based fertilizers and pesticides, and lessened need for heavy farm equipment would result in substantial energy savings. The consumption of local, regional, and seasonally grown food-in line with macrobiotic dietary principles-would further cut back on food imported long distances and from different climates, thus reducing transportation networks and their resulting pollution and other social costs. The need for less metals, chemicals, petroleum, and other raw materials would further ease international competition and crises.