Kevin McInerney, Write and Respond 1: NYC Food Supply Chain

W&R1- NYC Food Supply Chain and NY Food Sustainability

Considering the physical size of New York and its vast population, the state’s food supply chain is incredibly intricate and is one which tens of millions of people rely on. My original research was focused primarily on New York City, which hosts roughly 60 million tourists on a yearly basis and is home to nearly 9 million full-time residents, making it one of the largest cities in the world. Considering statistics relating to its population, it’s safe to say an incredible amount of people rely on the food supply chain in New York City in order to survive, and it’s a system with a lot of moving parts under an immense amount of stress on a daily basis. New York City is obviously a unique component of the entire state of New York, which spans 54,555 square miles and plays home to nearly 20 million full-time residents, making it the 4th most populated state in the country. I was originally planning on analyzing the food supply chain of New York City and proposing a strategy to improve the efficiency of the system in order to eliminate potential waste and save massive amounts of energy, however, after realizing the complexity of the supply chain I decided to redirect my attention toward the sustainability of the New York State’s resources and evaluate whether or not the state would be able to feed and provide for itself considering its agricultural output and available resources. Upon conducting research into this topic, I came across the results of a Cornell University study which assessed nutritionally complete diets and the supply of necessary resources, among a variety of other things.

When thinking about whether or not the State of New York would be able to provide for and feed itself, there are a lot of important things to consider. Two of the core aspects behind figuring this out is the number of people that need to be fed, 20 million, and the availability of arable land in order to produce the amount of food demanded.

At the beginning the 2016 fiscal year, New York contained 210 agricultural districts, which were comprised of roughly 26,000 farms spanning nearly 9 million acres, which is about 30% of the State’s total land area of 34 million acres.

Considering these values, let’s try to figure out how many average diets could be sustained based on a complete and balanced diet of 190 grams of meat which would require slightly over 1 acre of land per diet to sustain itself, while also keeping in mind the roughly 9 million acres of currently operating farmland.

\(\frac{9\text{million acres}}{1}\times\frac{190\text{grams of meat}}{1\text{acre}}\times\frac{1\text{diet}}{190\text{grams of meat}} = 9\text{million diets}\approx 45\text{percent of New York States population}\)

Because there are 34 million acres of land in New York, according to these calculations, it’s technically feasible that New York state could provide for itself in terms of a balanced diet concerning meat, before taking into consideration the amount of land that isn’t farmable.

After processing this equation, it’s important to become familiar with the common American food consumption patterns from low-fat diets to high-fat diets, and diets that are low in meat consumption and high in meat consumption. Below there is a graph that depicts the average US diet with respect to the range of fat compared to the amount of meat and eggs consumed.

Looking further into the people aspect of the food supply, it’s important to keep in mind that a complete and balanced diet includes 190 grams of meat containing roughly 30% fat, despite that fact that the average American consumes roughly 163 grams of meat on a daily basis. In the research conducted within the Cornell University study, they took into account USDA data outlining the statistics of 42 different diets which all accounted for an intake of 2300 calories per day. They also took into consideration the agricultural land requirements for each diet and the amount of agricultural land needed in order to fulfill these diet requirements for the entire population of New York. Some other key statistics that I think are important to keep in mind when examining this situation involve the various important categories of food which a significant amount of these diets consist of. The most commonly occurring food categories included calories, meat, eggs, and fat; although it’s important to keep in mind the implications of a vegetarian or vegan diet throughout the course of this process. The average U.S. diet contains 5.8 ounces of meat or eggs per day and 41% of daily calories from fat which goes to show the importance of meat, eggs, and fat within our diets. Because of the high demand for animal products, the amount of available land is limited and isn’t used to its full capacity. The amount of land per unit of edible energy that animal products require far exceeds the amount which grains require; these requirements increase between 3.3-6.6 times as much total land required for animal products other than beef, and 31 times as much total land is required for beef products. A large part of the reason why animal products require so much more land compared to grains is that most foods and animal products require annual crops, a resource which is more limited, especially because it calls for more land. More important statistics which I found interesting was the fact that beef requires 5.3 square meters of cultivated land per 1000 calories, pork requires 7.3 meters of land, and chicken requires 9.0 meters of land; all information reflecting the necessity of land in order to provide sufficient meat products to the overwhelming population of New York state.

In order for New York to sustain itself just in terms of meat, people would need to eat slightly less than half of the balanced diet of meat of 190 grams, limiting their intake to roughly 90 grams of meat, as displayed in the equation below:

\(\frac{9\text{million acres}}{1}\times\frac{90\text{grams of meat}}{.5\text{acres}}\times\frac{1\text{diet}}{90\text{grams of meat}} = 18\text{million diets}\approx 90\text{percent of New York states population}\)

Although this calculation gets us closer to being able to feed the entirety of New York states population, it would require people to eat significantly less meat than what is recommended in a complete and well-balanced diet, not to mention the implications of factoring in grains and other animal based products.

There are a variety of other factors to consider when trying to come up to a solution to this question; there is the aspect of perennial vs. annual crops, which certains products depend on, the fact that most foods and animal products require annual crops which are more limited, etc. It’s interesting to note that although animal products tend to require for land to sustain themselves, the right balance of animal products in a diet can increase the amount of humanly edible calories available in the food supply. The simple answer to the question is: no, New York state cannot feed itself and will be a net importer of food in the years to come, which will be interesting to see how prices and living conditions respond as a result.


NYC Food by the Numbers: Climate Change and our Food Supply. (2015, August 12). Retrieved from

(2010, May). Understanding New York City’s Food Supply [Scholarly project]. Retrieved from

(2016) Five Borough Food Flow. 2016 New York City Food Distribution & Resiliency Study Results. Retrieved from pdf

New York Ranks No. 5 for Crime & Corrections Among U.S. States.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report,

Bosak, Jon. “Can New York State Feed Itself?” Can New York State Feed Itself?, TCLocal, 16 June 2009,

Somers, Bob. “Agricultural Districts.” New York State Department of Agriculture and

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