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What Is the Difference Between Food Production and Manufacturing? 

June 30, 2022


What Is the Difference Between Food Production and Manufacturing? 

Food production and manufacturing have been used to produce accessible and convenient food since time immemorial. Agriculture is currently the world’s largest industry, but with an estimated population of 9 billion people who need to eat, this is hardly a surprise. Leading food factories in the U.S. include Tyson Foods, Frito-Lay, and General Mills. According to recent research, the revenue in the food market is projected to hit 10 trillion USD in 2024.1 

However, did you know that food production is not quite the same as food manufacturing?  

What is Food Production? 

Food production refers to the entire process involved in converting raw materials into finished edible products. This means that food production encompasses soil preparation, planting, harvesting, and some form of processing, to convert it into edible produce. Food production is the “first-level” manufacturing of foods that are typically considered organic. Produce like milk, nuts, honey, pulses, vegetables, chicken, and eggs are great examples of organic food that only undergoes the first level of manufacturing of food production.  
Food production methods include pasteurization, fermentation, pickling, cooking (such as grilling, frying, steaming or boiling), emulsification, liquefaction, macerating, slicing, dicing and mincing. Another excellent example of food production is honey production. It involves bees gathering nectar and converting it into honey stored in honeycombs, which beekeepers extract using specialized equipment; this represents the stages of planting, harvesting, and processing. 

To further explore its scope, here are some key aspects of the food production process: 

Agricultural Practices 

Food production does not begin when crops are planted—it begins with proper agricultural processes. This is because crops that are planted without first having their safety and profitability ensured by a farmer are unlikely to produce much and may not survive at all. Agricultural practices include land preparation, fertilization, pest control, and irrigation in drier climates, among other things. 

Crop Cultivation 

This is the process of planting and caring for crops for a specific purpose, which, in this case, is food. Crop cultivation encompasses all kinds of plant varieties, from fruit trees to legumes, to vegetables. Each kind of crop needs a specific system of nurture and a specific type of environmental condition to thrive. Farmers are responsible for maintaining these conditions and caring for these crops as well as they need to be. 

Livestock Farming 

Livestock farming involves the raising and nurturing of farm animals for a specific purpose, much like crop cultivation. Livestock farming is useful in producing dairy products and meat. Each animal also requires special care and a specific kind of environment for their survival, and farmers are tasked with the responsibility of providing food, shelter, and care for these animals. 

Harvesting and Collection 

When the crop or animal being nurtured finally gives its produce, that raw material is harvested and temporarily stored by the farmer. Harvesting methods and processes vary from crop to crop and livestock to livestock. 

Processing and Storage 

After harvesting, processing begins. The raw products are converted into more palatable, more edible forms, usually through relatively simple and uncomplicated processes. For example, millet grains are processed by simply removing their husks, cleaning them up, and grading the grains. The ease of processing of grains is one of the reasons it continues to constitute a major part of the diet of rural communities in developing countries. Some products go through slightly more complex processes before they are ready for consumption, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized, separated, and homogenized before it is packaged and stored. 

Quality Control 

Through each step of the entire process, farmers are responsible for monitoring and maintaining a high-quality standard. Farmers guarantee that their manufacturing procedures and final products are excellent right from the farm all the way to the warehouse. 

What is Food Manufacturing? 

Food manufacturing is largely concerned with the processing, packaging, and distribution of food items made from materials obtained from food production. This is “second-level” manufacturing, in which items are made from raw ingredients or pre-processed food products. For example, food manufacturers can make tomato paste from fresh tomatoes or jam from fresh fruit. They can even invent completely new products by utilizing existing manufactured goods. To make bread, for example, companies can utilize flour made from wheat, milk, and eggs from raising cattle, as well as manufactured goods like sugar and oil. 

While there are similarities between food manufacturing and food processing in handling materials and ensuring quality standards, they differ greatly. Food manufacturing typically involves processing methods that often incorporate preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and other additives to extend product shelf life and enhance consumer appeal. Moreover, the realm of food manufacturing encompasses activities such as cooking and baking, packaging design, distribution logistics and marketing strategies. 

Related article: Q3 2023 Jobs Forecast: Job Creation Continues to Grow 

Food Production vs Food Manufacturing: What’s The Difference? 

It’s easy to conflate food production and manufacturing since both processes involve converting food from its raw form into an edible product. However, they are not the same thing. Food production also involves the sourcing and processing of raw food materials to turn them into edible products, but in this case, food manufacturing is a much more large-scale industrial process that caters to a larger market. Food manufacturing is more concerned with intensive processing techniques that produce food products with a longer shelf life, while food production is more concerned with smaller-scale farming practices and organic produce. 

For further clarification, here are additional differences between food production and food manufacturing: 

Technology Required 

Food production can be done using basic tools like grinders, cutters, and blenders. However, manufacturing food products usually requires advanced technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (A.I.), blockchain, and digital twins. For instance, blockchain technology makes it easy for manufacturers to trace their products’ location and origin. It will also show what methods were used to tend the crop or raise livestock. This technology, therefore, comes in very handy during food contamination outbreaks. 

Cost Involved 

The cost involved in food manufacturing is much higher compared to that of food production. Besides buying equipment, food manufacturers incur significant costs when patenting their ideas, conducting market research, creating packaging, marketing their products, and dealing with lawsuits. 

Regulatory Compliance 

Though both food producers and food manufacturers must comply with food safety regulations, the requirements are stricter for the latter. To guarantee food is safe for consumption, food manufacturers in the U.S. must follow the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). In addition, there are state regulations and federal rules to be met. 

Related article: Which Job in the Manufacturing Industry Pays the Most? 


Are you skilled in food production or food manufacturing? Spectra360 can help you bridge the gap between these dynamic sectors by leveraging your expertise in one to explore opportunities in the other. With the food industry evolving and expanding, your knowledge and experience are invaluable assets that can open doors to diverse roles across both fields. 

Whether you excel in the meticulous care of crop cultivation and livestock farming or thrive in the high-tech world of food manufacturing processes, there’s a place for you to grow and succeed with us. Feel free to reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help or visit our job board to explore a range of career opportunities tailored to your unique skills and interests. 


1 “Food – Worldwide.” Statista, Nov 2023, www.statista.com/outlook/cmo/food/worldwide

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