Early on in our project, we considered making a “follow the chicken” stamp of approval aka Eco-Footprint Tracker — it you buy food with a chicken stamp on it, it was produced well, in a sustainable manner that didn’t hurt the environment.
Today, we saw “Follow the Frog” ad that summed up our idea. So follow the FROG!
In it, there were a few interesting facts that will help up develop the Cost of Chicken App:
It takes 8 kilograms of feed to make one kilogram of cow, 4 kilograms of feed for one kilogram of pork and two kilograms of feed for one kilogram of chicken. “The number one thing you can do if you care about climate change is cut down on meat consumption,” as Dawn Moncrief, executive director of meat reduction group A Well-Fed World, noted the following day.
So we’ve started the design of our Cost of Chicken App: Eco-Footprint Tracker. (We’re still working out the name.)
It would work something like this:
Work with food producers to place QR Codes on their products. Each code provides a URL with information on the true cost of food: how far it has been trucked to be available locally; how long it has been stored (e.g. apples are stored for months prior to being delivered to supermarkets); how much energy it took to produce the food; and how much the packaging costs. Distance, production and manufacturing, storage, and marketing are all factors that contribute to the total expenditure of our planet’s resources.
Once we have the QR codes, we can quickly add up all of the groceries that are being purchased and generate an approximate size of the eco-footprint for that consumer for that day.
Each person (or family) could have an account that tracks all of their food purchases. This data could be graphed (or displayed in other ways) to allow people to visualize their choices in terms of the ecological consequences.
The app could work even without the QR Codes: a consumer can just enter the type of food they bought, and the app calculates the approximate eco-footprint.
Do you know how to pick a ripe watermelon? Our mom hits it like a drum — if it sounds deep and empty, then it’s good. …or not. Sometimes, definitely not good. So now there are sensors that are stuck on the skin of the food directly to tell how far along its ripeness (or foulness) the fruit is! Check out the article from Gizmodo: Edible Sensors Let You Know If Your Food Is Spoiled.
Does it make a difference what we buy and what we eat? YES! Time Magazine did an amazing collection of photographs of families from around the world gathered around their dinner tables (or blankets) with a collection of all the things they eat. People’s choices make a difference. Here in US, on an average, we generate 22 tons of Carbon Dioxide per person per year! Of that, 8.1 metric tons of greenhouse gases are generated by food consumption choices.
Check out this interesting presentation with lots more data.
The carbon footprint factors this presentation lists is almost a perfect match for our Cost of Chicken map categories:
how far did the food travel to reach you? (transportation accounts for 11% of the total green house gas emissions from food)
how was your food produced? (food production and harvesting accounts for 83% of the total green house gas emissions from food if done in a conventional, big agriculture business way)
what kind of food did you get? (delivery from the producer to the store accounts for 4% of the total green house gas emissions from food)
So here’s a break down:
Red Meat is the number one source of greenhouse gases from food and is responsible of 30% of the total.
Milk and other dairy products come in at number two at 18% of the total.
Cereals and Carbs at 11% of the total; as are fruits and vegetable — 11%.
Chicken, fish, and eggs are responsible for 10% of the total.
Beverages are 6%; and so are sweets and condiments — 6%.
All the other food stuffs make up the rest — 9%.
By looking at the data coming in from the Cost of Chicken crowd map, we can see how much green gas we are generating.
We believe if people knew that their food choices make a difference to the environment, they would choose more wisely.
Check out this data (and see the whole presentation):
Last week, students taking Economics in Lowell High School were assigned to collect some data points for our Cost of Chicken Crowdmap. In just a few days, we have 150 data points! While most are from San Francisco, we do have some food data from Russia and India (and hoping to get more from other countries soon).
The most obvious conclusion from all this data so far is that no one seems to know where their food comes from! It might be that all the data was collected from big cities. But we suspect that food consumers in general have little idea of who grows/produces their food. And the companies that do do the food manufacturing try to high this information. They use cute names on their packaging: “Foster Farms Chicken”. But where is this farm? There are probably many farms that grow chicken to be sold under this name.
And so we are planing on developing a way to track where food comes from — stay tuned for the Cost of Chicken Labs — where we talk about our ideas.
CrowdMap for Cost of Chicken
Cost of Chicken project works with kids from around the world to collect data on local food conditions -- it's food anthropology for all! The resulting information is available for all to use. Schools that need a worksheet to help their students participate in this project, please download one here: