On the subject of cooking

I\’ve mentioned this piece before but this is an additional interesting question:

The real energy hog, it turns out, is not industrial agriculture at all, but you and me. Home preparation and storage account for 32 percent of all energy use in our food system, the largest component by far…

If this is right, then could it be that microwave meals are actually the green option? Wouldn\’t that represent a dilemma for the chattering classes?

Does anyone want to (and have access to the necessary information to) calculate the energy requirements for cooking at home?

What would really be interesting is being able to show that the \”slow food\” movement, where you reduce your own stocks and cook everything at home (you know, make your own confit du canard etc) is really very ungreen because of the energy consumption…..

8 thoughts on “On the subject of cooking”

  1. I find it hard to match that 32% up with this:

    According to government figures, 61% is used for heating, 23% for hot water, 3% for cooking and 13% for lighting and electrical appliances

    unless of course food is a tiny part of overall energy use, which might be the case.

    Tim adds: I think they’re starting from that subset of energy use which is to do with food…..of which 32% is the use of energy in the home as opposed to energy in the fields or transport.

  2. I can believe it. It certainly generates more waste – small quantities of raw ingredients separately wrapped as opposed to one tray for a ready meal.

  3. I think the original guy who came up with the 32% is using exaggerated figures. He quotes fridges as using 9000 calories a week which works out to be 10.46kWh. However modern fridges are quoted to use something like 350kWh per year not the 530 odd that he was quoting. I think I’ve got my figures right but feel free to correct me.

    He also includes dish washers and multiple fridges in his calculation. This is for an American home. He then compares apples and pears by saying that homes use 22% of American energy whilst farms use 2%. There are a hell of a lot more homes than farms, plus homes use energy for more than just food use.

    Finally, even if food wasn’t local, you’d still be using it to keep your food cold and heating your food to make it eatable. If you then argue that you could buy your microwave meals daily so that you didn’t need a fridge or dishwasher, then all you are doing is moving the energy consumption to the supermarket. It doesn’t make the energy disappear. And don’t forget the energy involved in making the microwave meal is used in a factory, not in the home so doesn’t count in the guy’s figures.

  4. Does this take into account the reduced heating bills when cooking?

    I can see where this is going. The Ecofascists will have us either a) eating Soylent Green or b) herded into massive soup kitchens to get our daily ration of vegan gruel like the cattle they take us for.

    “Please Sir, I don’t want any more. No Sir!”

  5. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    As I was cooking my breakfast this morning, I noticed that I was boiling up a pan of chick peas. I used to buy chick peas in tins, ready cooked. But then the supermarket, under pressure from the foodie lobby, decided I was going to ‘eat healthily’ and stopped putting salt in them. The result was that they were as appetising as rabbit droppings.

    I now cook them at home, using considerably more energy, but I can cook them as I want them, not as some leftard thinks I ought to want them.

    Now I learn that it is bad for the environment and must be stopped.

    Perhaps I’ll stick to the McDonalds in future.

  6. @Brian, follower of Deornoth.

    My thoughts followed similar lines. It is far more efficient to cook chick peas in a huge vat and put them into cans. Or to put them into jars (remarkably, it appears, jars can be recycled without pulverising them into cullet) or in plastic cartons. The latter two options also deliver finer tasting food.

    If your canned chick peas are bland, drain them and reheat in salted water for five minutes before adding them to your dish.

    @SadButMadLad: It is fair to say that many studies on household or motor vehicle energy consumption adopt a USA baseline. Flawed, given that the USA is a country with regional differences. I don’t think that they are meaningful *within* the USA.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Roger Thornhill – “The Ecofascists will have us either a) eating Soylent Green or b) herded into massive soup kitchens to get our daily ration of vegan gruel like the cattle they take us for.”

    George Monbiot has a little article today on how the environmental impact of meat is all lies. He does not quite put it that way but that is what it is. So he supports meat eating as part of a Green planet.


    It only took him half his f**ki ng life to get with the programme of the blatantly obvious.

    At this rate it can only be a matter of time before he is accepting the UKIP whip. So to speak.

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