In a country as big as the United States, you might expect food to travel hundreds of miles before it reaches the dinner table. But the first-ever map of America’s food supply chain shows some commodities never leave the county in which they were produced.
A team at the University of Illinois used official data to create a detailed map of food journeys in the US. It shows 9.5 million food transit routes, underlining the complexity of the nation’s food supply network.
One food journey tracked by the study follows corn grown on an Illinois farm to a grain silo in Iowa, from where it is transported to feed cows in Kansas. After processing, the meat products then make their way back to Illinois and onto the shelves of a grocery store in Chicago.
The study shows California is home to the US’s largest food processors, with Los Angeles County receiving 21.9 million tonnes of food in 2012, the year the researchers examined. Some of the food arriving in LA was for local consumption, though the county shipped out 16.6 million tonnes.