Since January, 2002

December, 2006
Vol. 5, Number 12
The SNS Press E–Zine presents new perspectives for a better future in society, politics, religion, education, self-awareness and human relations.

Home Page

About SNS Press

Author Richard Sidy

Contact Us

Buy Publications


A hopeful approach for the future of international relations.

Redirect teen rebellion towards idealism and self improvement.

Read excerpts from unpublished book: Science, Religion and the Search for God —Bridging the Gap.

Poems of society, the human condition, and spiritual discovery.

Our student activities and curriculum materials instill an environmental, cultural, and global perspective, and integrate various academic disciplines.






This Month's Article

"Fast Food" is Really "Slow Food" —
A New Look at the Food Chain

What people call "fast food" or "convenience food" is the slowest, most inconvenient food consumed by humans. It is also the most wasteful and polluting use of resources on a daily basis. In order to understand how "fast food" is really "slow food" we must rethink the concept of the "food chain" because human eating habits have changed since food supply became industrialized and global.

In the old, biological model of the food chain, plants are the starting point. They directly convert sunlight into food. Sunlight is the ultimate "fast food." What we are in the habit of calling "fast food" is determined at the point of consumption, but it ignores the chain of production up to the point of consumption as well as disposal after consumption. We call it "fast" because of the illusion that it takes little time or work. The new measure of whether food is "fast" or "slow" should now be based on the whole amount of energy and labor needed to get it to the final point of consumption, and then to dispose of non-food by-products.

Returning to the biological food chain, organisms are ranked to whether they eat "high" or "low" on the food chain based on what they eat. Meat-eating predators eat highest, while plant eaters eat lowest. It has to do with the distance from sunlight, the source of all food and energy, and whether the organism is a "producer" or "consumer." With industrialization and globalization, we have to factor additional energy resources into the food chain.

If I pick an apple from my apple tree and eat it, I eat low on the food chain. That apple is "fast" food. If I drive to the supermarket and buy a New Zealand apple, that is "slow" food because the chain of consumption is long. It includes production and shipping energy: farmer to wholesaler to shipper; New Zealand to United States travel; United States point of entry to distributor; distributor to market; my home to market to my home. It also includes packaging in boxes, handling and refrigeration all along the way. Thus, eating the New Zealand apple is eating "high" on the food chain. Therefore, not all vegetable foods are equal in the new food/energy chain. In fact, if I hunt or fish, the meat I consume is lower on the chain and hence "faster" than eating a raw apple from New Zealand.

The new food/energy chain proposed here is the measure of energy used from point of origin to consumption plus its environmental impact. In human society farmers, gardeners, hunters and gatherers eat lowest on the food chain, while those eating strictly from packaged goods obtained from the supermarket are eating highest on the food chain regardless if the foods are meat or vegetarian. It turns out that currently named "fast food" is the slowest, based on the chain of intensive energy consumption in its production, packaging, transportation and waste.

New consumer labeling must go beyond current efforts to certify food as to nutritional value, relative naturalness of production, and origin. There needs to be a "food chain" label based on an energy use and pollution coefficient. Processing, packaging, shipping and waste disposal need to be considered in addition to contents. One liter of purified water in a plastic bottle is "slow" and "high" on the food chain, and would be labeled based on the energy used in bottling and shipping, plus the energy used in manufacturing the plastic bottle, plus the raw materials in the plastic, plus the energy cost to dispose of or recycle the bottle. To receive the highest ranking of certification certified "fast food" would be locally grown and not packaged. The more processing, packaging and distance from the point of origin, the lower it’s ranking.

In calling food "fast" in today's market we do not even factor in the time and energy costs of waste disposal or recycling. The new food/energy chain would take into consideration post-consumer energy used. Our current addiction to "slow food" that travels far, that uses many natural resources for packaging that we travel to buy, that contributes to the depletion and pollution of nature, that threatens human and global health and survival is too costly to continue. It is worse than ironical that people want to protect a "way of life" that endangers them.

We must change the mental concept of what is "fast" or "slow." Our vocabulary of food consumption needs to reflect the energy reality of the industrial and global food chain. More energy spent in production, transportation, consumption and waste disposal equals "slower;" less energy spent equals "faster."

The biological food chain inserted humans as producers and consumers on an equal basis with plants and animals. In this food chain waste breaks down and becomes food for decomposers and nutrients for future growth. This model only works where humans are still a part of the natural, biological cycle: sunlight — plants — plant-eaters— predators — food producers/consumers — decomposers. It only works if people are hunter/gatherer/agriculturalists who live off the land and are able to compost all their waste.

The new food chain proposed here is an energy consumption chain and takes into account the real costs of human consumption. It could be applied to other energy uses and products as well. If scientists could develop a certification label that reflects the total energy used, choices could be made that will help survival. There would emerge a new psychology where sustainable living will be seen as "fast" or efficient, and non-sustainable or energy intensive living as "slow" or inefficient. A “fast” lifestyle, contrary to being stressful, would be a lifestyle more in harmony with nature, more healthy, and less wasteful of time and energy. “Slow” would be a lifestyle where one creates obstacles to survival, where one’s actions stress the already overburdened ecosystem in which we live, and which requires extra time and energy to undo the negative consequences of consuming less wholesome food at the end of a long food chain.


© 2006 Richard Sidy


You may email this article by using the link below:



Contact us with your comments about this topic

Related Links

Article: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way"

Articles about Responsibility, Consciousness and the Future:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?

Protecting Children: Words and Deeds

Related Poems:

The Wake of Disaster


Support child survival, protection and development:
Donate to U.S.A. Fund for UNICEF

Donate to American Red Cross

Archives 2005
Volumn 4
January: "Standing up for Humanity"
February: "The Wake of Disaster" – a poem
March: "Unity in Diversity
April: "Life is Calling"
May: "Entertainment" – a poem
June: "Thought and Imagination" part 1
July: "Thought and Imagination" part 2
August: "Imagination and Healing"
September: "Malice or Neglect? – Lessons of Katrina"
October: "Protecting Children"
November: "Intelligent Design or Evolution?"
December: "Building with one hand, destroying with the other"
Archives 2006
Volumn 5

January: "Conflict, Harmony, and Integrity"
February: "Satyagraha or Soul-force and Political Change"
March: "I Know I'm Not Alone - Wisdom of Michael Franti"
April: "Human Programming and Conflict Part I"
May: "Human Programming and Conflict Part II"
June: "Soccer Diplomacy"
July: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way
August: "Parallel Universes"
September: "The News is not New"
October: "Legalizing Torture"
November: "Living Without an Enemy"
December: "Fast Food is really Slow Food"

Archives 2007
Volumn 6

January: "State of Fear"
February: Criminal Justice - "The Powerful Over the Weak"
March: "Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival"
April: "March Madness"
May: "No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind
June: "Personal Ecology"
July: Criminal Justice - "The Ethic of Custodianship"
August: "Exploring the Mind - part 1"
September: "Exploring the Mind - part 2: The Poetic Mind
October: "How Much Pain Can We Stand?"
November: "When Languages Disappear"
December: "Is it Enough to be Tolerant?"

Archives 2008
Volumn 7

January: "Beyond Ideology: Politics of the Future "
February: "Beyond the Bush Years"
March: "The Imaginary Economy - Part I
April: "The Imaginary Economy - Part II
May: Questions from Prison
June: "iGods and Connectivity"
July: "Energy Independence"
August: "Tribalism and the 2008 Elections
September: "Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice"
October: "Have We Been Willing Slaves?"
November: "Are We Ready for the Future?"
December: "Are we done learning from pain?"

Archives 2009
Volumn 8

January: "Awakening"
February: "When Sacrifice is no Sacrifice"
March: "The Good New Days"
April: "The Power of Metaphor"
May: "The Conflict of Mythologies"
June: "The Time is Right"
July: "The New Anarchy"
August: "The Art of Living"
September: "Outrage"
October: "Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?

November: "Effect of the manufacturing culture on the American Psyche"
December: Who are the Real Game Changers?

Archives 2010
Volumn 9

January: The Music of Place
February: Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
March: Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity
April: Why Do People Serve?
May: Decentralizing Food and Energy
June: Beyond Reading and Writing — Ecological literacy
July: Organization or Organism?
August: Fear and Cynicism = “Inter-fear-ance”
September: Are we afraid of our "Better Angels?"
October: Choosing Our Battles
November: Meeting the Need
December: A Living Canvas

Archives 2002: Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003: Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

Art and Politics
Living the Good Life

Teaching Teens
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Archives 2004: Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Seven Part Series on Global Consciousness
Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All
Poetry Diplomacy Science and Religion  Teen Help
Archives 2002 Archives 2003 Archives 2004
© 2006 SNS Press
All Rights Reserved