University of Illinois map shows flow of food among U.S. counties; click  on it to enlarge.
A team of University of Illinois researchers has just developed the first high-resolution map of the U.S. food supply chain; it includes the flow of all food between U.S. counties, including grains, fruits and vegetables, animal feed, and processed foods. The map and accompanying database reveal 9.5 million links between U.S. counties. The research shows that "All Americans, from urban to rural are connected through the food system. Consumers all rely on distant producers; agricultural processing plants; food storage like grain silos and grocery stores; and food transportation systems," Illinois researcher Megan Konar writes for Route Fifty.

"To build the map, we brought together information from eight databases, including the Freight Analysis Framework from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which tracks where items are shipped around the country, and Port Trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which shows the international ports through which goods are traded," Konar writes.

The map doesn't just show origin and final destination; it also shows how it gets there. "For example," Konar writes, it "shows how a shipment of corn starts at a farm in Illinois, travels to a grain elevator in Iowa before heading to a feedlot in Kansas, and then travels in animal products being sent to grocery stores in Chicago."

The map illustrates flows of produce and milk from California, sugar and rice from Louisiana, and so on. The secondary transportation element shows up most strongly in western New York, from Niagara County to Erie County. "That’s due to the flow of food through an important international overland port with Canada," Konar explains.