Energy Balance of a Typical U.S. Diet

Foods. 2013 Mar 28;2(2):132-142. doi: 10.3390/foods2020132.


Today's agriculture provides an ever increasing population with sufficient quantities of food. During food production, processing, handling and transportation, an amount of energy is invested into the various products. An energy analysis of a typical American diet provides policy makers, farmers and the public with the necessary information to evaluate and make informed decisions as to how to improve the efficient use of energy. At the same time, an informed consumer may become energy conscious and be able to make dietary choices based on food energy balance. This paper studies the energy sequestered in a typical American diet as defined in Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). The amount of energy incorporated in this diet of 3628 kcal (15.18 MJ) per person and day to produce, transport, handle and process the foods is calculated and found to have approximately 39.92 GJ (9.54 Gcal) sequestered per person and year. It is shown that a diet in line with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendation of around 2100 kcal (8.79 MJ) per day person will result in a reduction of energy inputs by 42% on an annual basis. This reduction for the whole population of the United States of America (USA), corresponds to approximately 879 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) savings. Energy efficiency for the food categories studied varies from 3.4% to 56.5% with an average of 21.7%. Food energy efficiency can be further improved in some food categories through either a reduction of energy inputs or yield increase.

Keywords: U.S. diet; energy balance; energy efficiency; energy sequestered.