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We are bombarded daily with news and statistics about global warming, it has become a centerpiece of international political discourse and has infiltrated even into our dining rooms. The amount of conversation that is had about this topic is nearly unprecedented, which is probably due to the fact that climate change and global warming present the first actually viable possibility of our extinction which is apparent not only to scientists but also the layman. However, in everyday conversation, there is much more talk going on about the exact statistics of the problem or the cause, but not much about the actual solutions. The Farm to Fork concept is one of these possible solutions, and we will try to dissect it somewhat in today’s article.
The Farm to Fork concept or strategy is a political and economic plan initiated by the European Commission to combat an aspect of the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions by restructuring and reforming the production, distribution, and legislation of the food system of Europe.
But as always, there is more to the story. It is crucial not only to talk about all the negative impact of humans on their environment but also the nation- and continent-wide attempts and plans to revive it. Around a third of all GHG emissions worldwide are a result of the food system we have today, so it is obviously among the top priorities to optimize it, which requires deep and detailed research. Read on to find a summary of what the Farm to Fork concept and strategy consists of!
What is Farm to Fork Concept
So, we have briefly answered what it means generally, but now we will try to analyze the farm to fork concept in more detail since there is a lot of it. In this first part, we will try to focus more on what is the concept and the reasons for the invention of the concept, and in the second part, we will look at the exact strategy.
20 years ago, if you mentioned climate change on the street to anyone, there was might have been a 10 % chance for any person to have ever heard of the phrase. Nowadays, however, not a single person, all the way from the richest to the poorest, can be said to have no basic understanding of what it is about. This came about primarily because problems started occurring. It is somewhat like any sickness or the sensation of thirst: if you feel it, it is an indicator that the problem has already developed.
Some signs of climate change were the seasons that changed intensity and time (they might have become shorter or longer, more severe or milder), holes in the ozone layer created by GHGs and other harmful substances, and average sea- and land temperatures have been on the rise. Scientists have tried warning governments and the people, but they were somewhat slow to be convinced. However, a majority of the world’s countries are now aware of the negative effect human activity might be having on the planet, which has also led to a sort of “arms race” for the greenest nations or groups of nations.
The European Union is one of these collaborative systems where it is being made a top priority to deal with climate change. One of the European Commission’s main projects which are actively being carried out is the Farm to Fork Strategy or Farm to Fork Concept. It means a complete reform of the food system in all of Europe, without leaving anyone behind.
The excessive use of pesticides and artificial substances in farming significantly lowers the quality of food available on the European market, as well as increases the number and amount of toxic substances placed in nature. The mass production of all the pesticides and fertilizers is already, on its own a pretty big ecological problem, since these chemical cocktails aren’t made in the most natural of ways either. They are mass-produced in factories that aren’t optimized for sustainability. Though they already produce a lot of waste, they are by far not the worst offenders.
The production of food can be harmful to our environment in other ways too, aside from the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers. The products themselves most often are processed in factories. May that be the making of blocks of cheese, slaughtering of animals in cruel conditions, or the making of sugar, all of them go through energy-intensive procedures to make them cheaper, easier to distribute, tastier, etc. The problem is not with one factory however, rather if one were to count together all the food-related factories on the continent of Europe and their carbon footprint, the numbers would be staggeringly high.
All sorts of similar issues add up to create a whole big challenge that the EU and the rest of the world have to take on, which also includes dealing with the carbon footprint of the transportation and distribution of these goods, their storage as well, and then also the waste. There is a lot to deal with and all different countries have different types of economic capacity and also cultural and personal needs, which makes it very hard to uniformize any such plan.
However, there is another problem which does show itself in all areas of Europe (and also the world), which has to be dealt with: obesity and the surrounding statistics. According to the European Commission website and their writings on the Farm to Food Strategy, over 50 % of adult Europeans are overweight. That might not sound like a catastrophic number, but that means that the new normal is to be fat, since statistically speaking the mean or the center of the weight distribution finds its center in a region we medically describe as overweight. This is a large problem for multiple reasons, all of which are dealt with in the Farm to Fork plan. One is the social cost of providing medical care to all the sicknesses, injuries, and diseases that could be avoided with proper nutrition, another one is the fact that people become overweight by eating more food, which in turn also needs a system which can provide those needs, which also has to produce more greenhouse gases.
There is a plethora of other reasons, social, medical, economic, and environmental, why the Farm to Fork Strategy is being implemented by the EU. Its main goal is to become the first carbon-neutral continent in the world by 2050. Those are big claims and big goals, but the urgency is high. The whole concept of Farm to Fork is exactly this: to create a legal system and a series of reforms in the food industry, which will quickly and effectively benefit people, societies, and the environment at the same time.
What is Farm to Fork Strategy?
So now briefly, we will touch on what kind of reforms and decisions the EU is trying to implement, since the exact plan according to which the European Commission plans to carry out the plan of creating a greener food environment is called the Farm to Fork Strategy.
One aspect is definitely financially aiding research facilities and technical institutions which are centered around restoring biodiversity and reducing environmental harm when it comes to the process of food production. Research is key in figuring out what is the most economic, healthy, and sustainable way to feed a continent.
The EU plans to put legislative bounds on pesticide and fertilizer use, in order to try to transform all or much of food production into organic food production, which has a better nutritional value and better carbon footprint as well. This part of the program aims to both reduce environmental harm and also on increasing the nutritional value and freshness of foods around Europe.
Another important aspect of the Strategy is to create a Food Security system initialized by the European Commission, which will help the EU in maintaining a stable food system even under crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. The workers should be awarded more with better payments and career options in order to ensure a high-quality life for fishermen, farmers, and other workers in the food industry.
These were just snippets of what the European Commission has planned in order to improve our environmental impact when it comes to food production, there are much more detailed descriptions and information on their official website, https://ec.europa.eu/info/index_en.
How Long Does It Take Beef to Go From Farm to Fork?
One of the major offenders in the food industry is more specifically, the beef industry. When a calf is born, they go through several phases of their lives when they are either gaining weight, exercising, or both in order to grow. When they reach the age of 18-22 and amass around 1200 pounds of weight, they get butchered and sold off, which takes place anywhere from a couple of days after the butchering to even months after it, depending on what is made from it. All in all, from the moment cattle are born, it takes about two years for it to be processed fully and sold.
The largest problem, however, is that cattle need a lot of space to graze. A herd of 100 cows and a couple of bulls needs a lot of grass to be well-fed, and they need a lot of space where they can roam around while eating. For this reason, entire forests are being cut down, producing methane gas which is one of the main GHGs. According to scientific research, cutting down by just 1 steak per week from the average European’s diet would cause a massive change in the environmental effect that the beef industry has on the planet. It is one of the first steps we consumers could try taking to help each other save our environments.