Egg Supply Chain as Demonstration of the Advantages of Localization

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Ted Trainer:

""even most good green people do not grasp just how grossly unsustainable consumer-capitalist society is. There is a powerful numerical case that if by 2050 all the world’s people had risen to live as we in rich countries would then be living, given 3% p.a. growth, then resource and environmental impacts would be around 10 times their present levels, and approaching 20 times the levels the World Wildlife Fund estimates would be sustainable. (2019.) The belief that this will be made possible by technical advances which will “decouple” GDP growth from resource demand is contradicted by a massive literature. (Chris notes this, p. 84, but could make more fuss about it; it’s the standard rationale trotted out for resisting degrowth.) Thus there is no option but to accept that there must be massive degrowth down to per capita resource levels that are around one-tenth or less of present rich world levels. There is only one way to do this while ensuring a good quality of life for all. It cannot be done unless we abandon the present commitment to energy-intensive, industrialised, urbanised, globalised, travel and trade and tourism ridden, complex, financialised, growth and market obsessed extractivist systems… and above all the obsession with affluent lifestyles.

Our study of egg supply (Trainer, Malik and Lenzen, 2019) shows why simpler lifestyles and systems are the only way. We analysed the resource and energy costs of the typical supermarket supply path and those of supply via backyard and co-operative poultry keeping. The former path involves vast global networks involving fishing fleets, trucks and ships, fertilizer factories, agribusiness feed production, soil depletion and damage, poultry feed factories, chemicals factories, logistics, personnel departments, insurance and advertising and marketing industries, packaging waste, bored workers, car travel to the supermarkets, “waste” removal industries getting rid of poultry manure that cannot go to the soils which produced the food, computers and expensive personnel with degrees sitting at computers.

But the local path involves hardly any of this. We found that its costs per egg was around 1-2% of the supermarket egg.

And in addition consider the benefits of the local way, such as enabling the chickens to get much of their feed from free ranging in the orchards and gardens cleaning up pests, the occasional meat for the kitchen and feathers for pillows, and manures that go by bucket to methane digesters and compost heaps thus eliminating the need for artificial fertilizers.

This is an example of the way many of the things we would need for a good life in a sustainable society would (have to) be provided. That is, from small local firms and farms using local inputs, much voluntary labour, and simple technologies." (

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