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Food refrigeration - Impact of refrigeration on energy use


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Food refrigeration - Impact of refrigeration on energy use

Refrigeration has yielded enormous benefits to the global society in making our food safer to eat and helping to reduce waste. However these gains, as with all technologies perhaps, have created opportunities for new problems to emerge. The interactions among refrigeration, packaging, food transport, food product innovations and various socio-economic developments have helped to create cultural norms and practices which are highly energy dependent.

As such, refrigeration serves as a symbol, or marker of unsustainable energy use and behaviours in the food system. Energy efficiency measures and novel technologies are only part of the solution – we need to tackle the reasons why the public demand the use of refrigeration and address the impact of refrigeration use on energy consumption throughout the food supply chain.

Some of the questions for discussion that Tara Garnett, Food Climate Research Network at the Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey raises in this paper are:

  • To what extent is refrigeration ‘necessary’ in order to maintain food safety standards and how far it is simply used to preserve food in the condition which we have now come to consider as ‘normal’.
  • To what extent can the energy used by a refrigerated food chain be offset against the energy saved by reducing food waste?
  • What might a lower refrigeration system look like? And what policies and commercial or institutional practices either exist or could be developed that would foster a shift in this direction?
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