Where does my food come from?
Think about the last food you ate. What was it? Where did it come from? How did it get to you? Do you know where any of your foods come from or how they get to you?
Read on to find out about the importance of farms, the food chain and the process of taking produce from the farms to you.
We cannot live without food and because we obtain our food from farms, we depend on farming for our everyday needs.
Farming, or agriculture as it is sometimes called, began around 10,000 years ago. As people started to grow crops and keep animals, they could depend on the food they grew themselves and also make a little extra to supply people who did not grow their own food. Today, most people (in the city and country) rely on farmers to grow and supply their food. In fact, farming is the source of nearly all of our food and many of our raw materials.
In Australia, around 98 percent of the fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, milk and eggs sold in supermarkets are produced by Australian farmers. Australia exports about half of what is produced, but this only equates to about one percent of the global food supply.
The food chain
The food chain shows us how each living thing is connected in a chain that provides food for our survival. In the cycle, energy, nutrients and food are passed from one living thing to another. There are four parts to the cycle:
- Primary energy source
The food chain starts with a primary energy source, usually the sun.
The second part of the chain are the producers, which are organisms that make their own food from the primary energy source (e.g. plants). Plants are producers as they use the photosynthesis process to make their own food.
Next are the consumers. There are different levels of consumers, but to keep it simple, we will focus on two: primary and secondary consumers.
Primary consumers are the animals (such as cows) that eat the producers (plants). These are called herbivores.
Secondary consumers are the animals (including humans) that eat the primary producers (meat) or the products that they produce (e.g. milk). Secondary consumers may also eat the producers (plants). Secondary consumers are carnivores (meat eaters) or omnivores (meat and plant eaters).
When the producers or consumers die, they are broken down or eaten by the next link in the chain: the decomposers. Worms are an example of a decomposer that eats the producer or consumer, while bacteria or fungi break them down. Once this happens the nutrients go back in to the soil which helps to feed the plants and the cycle begins again.
Humans can have a big impact on the food chain. For example, pollution can change habitats or even kill off a particular species. If an animal is removed from the food chain through our actions, this impacts upon the group of animals that feed on that animal and so on.
This diagram illustrates how the food chain works.
The food supply chain
A food supply or production chain is the process of how food from a farm ends up on our tables. The process includes production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Every step of the food supply chain requires human and/or environmental resources to produce the food.