The food system is a complex network of activities, people, inputs, products and results that are involved in taking food from seed to plate. It encompasses a wide range of activities, from agricultural production to storage and distribution, processing and packaging, retail and marketing, and more. The different parts of the food system shape it and can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. The food supply chain is an integral part of the food system.
It includes all the steps necessary to produce and transport food from the field to the table. Farmers, processors, wholesalers, shippers and retailers are some of the people involved in this chain. Food supply chains operate at different scales and levels, depending on the food system. In rural and isolated communities, food supply chains can be short: farmers and food producers eat food directly or sell it to their neighbors at the local market.
However, food supply chains are undergoing rapid transformations, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This often leads to greater interaction between urban and rural environments. By comparing different types of food systems, users can understand their complexity and identify priority areas of action within their own systems. In informal and expanding food systems, agricultural productivity is usually higher than in rural and traditional food systems.
Medium- and small-scale farms are starting to emerge. Modern food supply chains are common for cereals and other dry foods, with large-scale processors (along with many smaller ones) and centralized distribution centers. Modern fresh food chains are also emerging, although traditional supply chains continue to predominate for these foods due to weak cold chains and inadequate market infrastructure. Food systems play an important role in society's well-being: they help ensure that all members of society can be as healthy as possible. Supermarkets (especially in the United Kingdom) respond to consumer concerns; for example, they can participate in setting environmental standards in the supply chain by supplying more sustainable foods such as organic and fair-trade products. These scenarios illustrate the problems of food insecurity, the impact of industrial livestock operations on communities and occupational hazards, some of the many public health challenges in the food system. The stages of production, processing and distribution of an orange juice supply chain are shown here, the series of steps necessary to get a product to consumers. Concerns about transparency and traceability have increased due to food safety issues such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and Escherichia coli (E.
coli). A greater proportion of countries in this type of food system have adopted food-based dietary guidelines. The lack of cooling and storage facilities causes large food losses for some crops, which may make producers less likely to diversify into perishable foods. Although availability is not perceived as a major concern in Europe, there is still a need to ensure a long-term safe, nutritious and affordable food supply both on land and in the oceans. By modernizing and formalizing food systems, agricultural productivity is generally higher than in emerging, informal and traditional systems.
On the other hand, food waste is increasing rapidly and deterioration at the end of the supply chain remains a challenge. The development of food systems dates back to the origins of on-site agriculture and to the production of surpluses. These systems are oriented towards a production model that requires maximizing efficiency to reduce consumption costs and increase overall production, using economic models such as vertical integration, economic specialization and global trade.