New Map Shows Where Your Food Travels

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University of Illinois researchers have recently developed the first of its kind high-resolution map of the U.S. food supply chain. An impressive 9.5 million county-by-county connections show how food and feedstuffs flow between counties. It includes movement of grains, fruits and vegetables, animal feed, and processed food items.

Food Map_Summit Livestock FacilitiesThe map was crafted using data from eight databases including input from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Each line on the map represents transportation of all food commodities in flow between U.S. counties. The map essentially shows pathways where food travels.

U of I notes an example of how a shipment of corn starts at a farm in Illinois, moves to an Iowa grain elevator, heads to a feedlot in Kansas, and ultimately travels in animal products to grocery stores in Chicago.

Food hubs are shown to be critical to the movement of the food supply. Southern California requires a huge volume of food products, however two counties ship out some of the highest volumes of food products.

The map also illustrates how food travels. Many food items require movement within a county or state before being shipped further on in the supply chain.

One thing that has distinguished the American agricultural system from the start is the country’s vital waterway system. The Ohio and Mississippi River systems allow huge volumes of grains to be moved via barge to export markets via the Port of New Orleans.

The report pointed out serious issues in the river-transit system with locks 52 and 53 in need of repair, and that without attention, their demise could slow “innumerable supply chains worldwide”.

Rail transport is also included in the map and is noted as an essential transit mode for grain. Fresh produce, in contrast is typically moved via refrigerated truck.

This is a very interesting mapping project that U of I plans to continue to develop. Take a look at the full report here.

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