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Food of the past and future

What is the difference between industrial and sustainable food production? This article explains them and the pro's and con's of each.
© International Culinary Studio

Hotels and food service organizations can choose what food to buy and who to buy it from, but one thing is a fact, they buy a lot. Meat, seafood, fresh produce, dry goods are part of their daily purchasing requirements, and understanding where the food comes from is vital if they want to make more sustainable choices.

In this article, we will compare sustainable and unsustainable farming methods.

The life cycle of a plate of food

The composite dish served in a restaurant goes through numerous inputs and transformation processes before being plated. Sustainable choices can be made at each stage of the process. It is essential to understand where your product comes from and what goes into it.

Life Cycle of a plate of food

The diagram above shows the process a plate of food goes through. In each of these stages, unsustainable choices can be made. Can you think of any? Please share them in the discussion.

industrial_cattle Sustainable_cattle

Industrial agriculture

After World War II and the great depression, there were desperate food shortages and insufficient food to feed a growing population. Industrial farming became popular as it was a quick way to address the ever-increasing food requirements on a large and more economical scale.

Industrial agriculture involves large-scale farming with intensive production of crops and livestock. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used on crops, and animals are given antibiotics to prevent illness. Processes are adapted to ensure the most successful output is achieved. For example increasing crop outputs using genetic modification (GMO) to reduce disease.

These farming methods are unsustainable, having long-term and severe impacts on people and the environment and depleting non-renewable resources.

The impact of industrial food production

Sustainable vs industrial agriculture

The above two pictures show the startling difference between industrial (above) and sustainable agriculture (below)

  • Large-scale farming, using mechanical and technological farming methods instead of labor, has replaced small-scale farmers leading to job losses and negative local economic impacts.
  • It impacts the environment negatively.
  • A grain-meat-rich diet has led to a high-sugar, high-fat diet causing many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Chemical pesticides and fertilizers have altered ecosystems’ composition causing contamination of food and poisoning water systems.
  • Overuse of antibiotics has caused livestock to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria and causes antibiotic resistance in humans.

Sustainable food production


Sustainable agriculture considers the entire process and how it can preserve the finite resources, producing its inputs and managing outputs in a closed-loop cycle. Sustainable farming practices including biodynamic, organic, and regenerative processes and adopt methods such as crop rotation, permaculture, planting of cover crops, soil enrichment, integrated pest management, using natural pests as predators, growing multiple crops in one area, and water and energy management.

Benefits of sustainable agriculture

  • Non-renewable resources are conserved.
  • Contributes to the conservation of an area.
  • Conserves water by using rainwater collection systems and groundwater.
  • Saves energy by using renewable energy sources.
  • Prevents air and water pollution by using natural fertilizers and pest control.
  • Waste produced is used in the farm’s ecosystem.
  • Prevents soil erosion by reducing soil runoff and tilling.
  • More humane livestock management methods are used.
  • Increases biodiversity using a variety of plants and animals.
  • Creates local employment and stimulates economic growth.

Foods of the future

With the changes in consumer needs, population requirements, urbanization, traditional food production is not able to feed the planet.

There are many innovative new food production methods establishing themselves. Here are a few:

Urban farming

Urban farming

Food produced inner city, on the top or sides of buildings.



Food is not grown in soil but in nutrient-rich water in specialized indoor systems that control heat, air, and light.



Aquaculture cultivates aquatic organisms (seafood) for human consumption in specially designed farms.

Lab-grown meat

Lab Grown Meat

Cultured meat is produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells instead of slaughtering animals.

Visit The Guardian and read the article on Lab Meat

Foods made from bio cultures

Bio cultures

Live culture bacteria causes fermentation of food. Examples include yogurt, Kombucha, Kefir,

Seaweed and algae

Algae Seaweed

Seaweed and algae provide valuable nutrients, they are rich in dietary fiber, and some species have high amounts of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acid, vitamins, and minerals.

Visit Food Unfounded and read the article on Four Interesting Ways to Eat Algae

Visit Michelin Star Eleven Madison Avenue goes Meat Free


Visit an organic shop in your area. If you don’t have one, look one up on the Internet. What are some of the principles that they advocate? Look at their products; what stands out about them? Please share your observations.

© International Culinary Studio
This article is from the free online

Introduction to Sustainable Practices in Food Service

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