Food is always a matter of interest, a means of providing energy, the raw material
that builds and maintains our well-being, a defence against illness, a pleasure to
consume when well prepared and presented, a basis for social interaction and
enjoyment at home, in a restaurant, canteen or perhaps even hospital or school.
Our ancient ancestors spent more than half of their waking hours searching for,
gathering, hunting and preparing food.
Clearly we have progressed. For example, television and magazines have large
audiences eager for entertainment and instruction on methods of food preparation
and presentation, of novelties, of variations on a theme, exotic and ethnic foods or
perhaps the simple basics such as ensuring an egg is fresh, boiled, fried or poached
to perfection. Yet, whoever we may be, we rely on a secure supply of food, and that
is more or less taken for granted in richer countries. Consumers’ concerns are price,
ease of acquisition and preparation, and quality as measured by preferences for
colour, taste and consistency.
By and large, all these are met for the majority of people in developed countries
for most of the time. We live at a time of abundantly supplied shops, stores,
supermarkets and fast food outlets. Supporting all of these is a supply chain, a
series of links and inter-dependencies from farm to fork, from plough to plate. It is
the behind-the-scenes production and preparation that delivers hour by hour, week
by week, through almost seamless seasons, providing us with food at a price we
like and in a place we want it. The food supply chain is a managed process, a combination
of knowledge and skills, spanning electronics, biology and the social
sciences of economics, human behaviour, psychology, and more. All are set in a
legal framework of minimum standards and basic rules.
The food supply chain embraces a wide range of disciplines. This book brings
together the most important of them and aims to provide an understanding of the
chain, to support those who manage parts of the chain and to enhance the development
of research activities in the discipline. It will therefore be of interest to
students, managers, researchers and policy decision-makers with an interest in food
supply chain management.