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Abstract: Traditionally, energy balances in agrarian production have been used to calculate the impact of food on the Spanish economy in physical terms. However, this tool is clearly insufficient. Human diet has undergone significant changes in recent decades. Between production and consumption, previously non-existent or insignificant processes such as transportation, packaging, processing, distribution, preservation, etc. have come to the fore. This article aims to evaluate the energy cost of the Spanish agri-food (AFS) system in the year 2000 with a view to ascertaining the relative importance of each link in the agri-food chain.
This information is essential when it comes to designing any strategy for sustainable de-growth. The results of this research show that feeding the Spanish population is an inefficient process: the Spanish AFS currently consumes 1408 PJ, while all of its residents combined consume only 190 PJ. Agrarian production is effectively the main source of this inefficiency (34% of the primary energy consumed), but not the only one: processes such as the preservation and preparation of food in the home (18%), transportation (17%) and packaging (10%) show that the way we feed ourselves is not sustainable. The paper makes a strong point that a fundamental transformation of the AFS is required. A move towards organic farming and corresponding new consumption patterns (i.e., local, seasonal food, less meat consumption) may considerably reduce resource use in the AFS and contribute to sustainable de-growth in Spain.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 38, January 2013, Pages 27–35, Degrowth: From Theory to Practice