Several factors influence food-related energy use

A chart showing the determinants of growth in U.S. food systems use, years 1997 to 2002.

About half of the growth in food-related energy use between 1997 and 2002 is explained by a shift from human labor toward a greater reliance on energy-intensive technologies. High labor costs in the foodservices and food processing industries, combined with household outsourcing of manual food preparation and cleanup efforts through increased consumption of prepared foods and more eating out, appear to be driving this result. Increases in per capita food expenditures (adjusted for inflation) and population growth also helped drive up food-related energy use over this period, with each trend accounting for roughly a quarter of the total increase. Data for 2007 show an 8-percent increase in food-related energy use since 2002. This chart was originally published in the ERS report, Energy Use in the U.S. Food System, ERR-94, March 2010.

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