Showing results for: North America
North America is the northern subcontinent of the Americas covering about 16.5% of the Earth's land area. This large continent has a range of climates spanning Greenland’s permanent ice sheet and the dry deserts of Arizona. Both Canada and the USA are major food producers and some of the largest food exporters in the world. Industrial farms are the norm in North America, with high yields relative to other regions and only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.
US media organisation NPR discusses the tensions between housing developers and people who use vacant city plots for food production. Around 15% of land in US cities is classed as “vacant”. Urban farms on vacant land can be an important source of fresh food in some low-income neighbourhoods, but this can clash with the need for more housing. New York City council has passed an urban agriculture bill in an attempt to give urban farmers some control over how land is used.
FCRN member Martin Heller of the Centre for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan has calculated the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) and energy demand associated with the diets of individuals in the US, based on a one day dietary recall survey. The highest-emitting 20% of diets are responsible for 46% of diet-related GHGEs, while the lowest-emitting 20% of diets cause 6% of diet-related GHGEs. The food types causing the highest percentage of GHGEs are meats (57%), dairy (18%), beverages (6%) and fish and seafood (6%).
This paper estimates greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) associated with the food purchased by US households (based on survey data) and examines the links between food GHGEs and demographic factors. It suggests that education on the links between food and climate could be targeted at more educated and more affluent consumers, since their research shows (see below) that the these households have more GHGE-intensive dietary patterns.
A new edible and almost invisible coating could extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and help farmers sell more of their crops, reports Civil Eats. The maker of the coating, Apeel Sciences, says that the coating is made from fats that can be derived from the peel, seeds and pulp of “any kind of fruit or vegetable”. Apeel Sciences claims that the coating can double the lifespan of produce, even without refrigeration.
Consumers prefer the term “100% plant-based” to “vegan”, according to a survey of US adults. When asked a series of questions including “Which tastes better?” and “Which is healthier?”, more than two-thirds of respondents selected “100% plant-based” over “vegan” (no other answers were available). According to Bark Stuckey (President and Chief Innovation Officer of Mattson, the organisation that conducted the survey), the preference might be because “plant-based” is seen as a positive dietary change, whereas “vegan” is seen as a whole lifestyle associated with deprivation and activism.
In a feature in Civil Eats, agricultural attorney Jillian Hishaw describes some of the difficulties that black farmers have faced in the US, including systematic denial of loans, exclusion from disaster payments, and lack of official paperwork for land that was passed on from slave owners. Hishaw founded the Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS) to help farmers who are black or from other historically disadvantaged groups to keep their land.
Shoppers do not notice sustainability rating logos on packaging, according to a report by QuadPackaging and Package Insight. In the study, 60 participants had their eye movements tracked while “shopping” in a retail laboratory. The products they were presented with were fictional brands with logos claiming different levels of sustainability. The logos did not represent a real sustainability standard. While 40% of the participants said that sustainability affects their purchasing decisions, the eye-tracking technology showed that 92% of the participants did not notice the sustainability logos.
From 7 May 2018, chain restaurants in the US with 20 or more branches are required to include calorie counts on their menus. The rules are part of an Obama-era health care law.
US grocers focus more on donating and recycling food waste than on preventing it, reports the Centre for Biological Diversity. The report scored 10 US grocery chains and the UK supermarket Tesco on food waste reduction commitments, policies and actions.
FCRN member Gary Bentrup, of the USDA National Agroforestry Centre, has co-authored a report on how agroforestry can be used to help agriculture both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The report defines agroforestry as “the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems”, which it further categorises into silvopasture, alley cropping, forest farming (or multi-storey cropping), windbreaks and riparian forest buffers. Topics covered include ecosystems services provided by agroforestry, the relationship of agroforestry to greenhouse gas emissions, economic and sociocultural considerations and an overview of agroforestry in different US regions, Canada and Mexico.
Large, powerful companies control much of the US food supply chain, with detrimental effects on consumer choice, food safety and food system resilience, according to a recent paper by researchers from NGO Food & Water Watch. The paper discusses the current “nearly unprecedented wave of food megamergers”, impacts on consumers of grocery consolidation and different types of mergers throughout the food supply chain.
Several companies are using microbes to improve crop performance. One of them is Indigo, which uses machine learning to identify the microbes associated with healthy plants and then coats seedlings with these microbes. Indigo’s method has increased wheat yields by 15% and cotton yields by 14% in trials.
This paper used a survey to explore consumer views of burgers made from beef, plant-based or cultured meat. The survey participants were asked to choose, hypothetically, between the varieties of burger and were told that all burgers tasted the same (the participants did not actually get to try any burgers during the experiment). The results predict that, if prices were equal, 65% of consumers would buy the beef burger, 21% the plant-based burger, 11% the cultured meat burger and 4% would not buy any.
This paper is the first to provide US data about what people eat when they reduce their meat consumption without becoming vegetarian or vegan. The objective of the research was to understand what is eaten in meatless meals and Americans’ attitudes to and perceptions of meat reduction.
Start-up Wild Type have raised $3.5 million towards the development of a platform and set of technologies that they hope could allow any type of meat to be cultured in the laboratory.
Walmart has developed a machine learning tool to predict when fruit and vegetables will spoil and make supply chains less wasteful.