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Half of all US food produce is thrown away, acc to new research


Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.

Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards, according to official data and interviews with dozens of farmers, packers, truckers, researchers, campaigners and government officials.

From the fields and orchards of California to the population centres of the east coast, farmers and others on the food distribution chain say high-value and nutritious food is being sacrificed to retailers’ demand for unattainable perfection.

"It’s all about blemish-free produce," says Jay Johnson, who ships fresh fruit and vegetables from North Carolina and central Florida.

"What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down."

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Food 'waste' is built into the business model of supermarkets...

Every year, the United States throws away one-third of all the food it produces — 133 billion pounds of food. Grocery stores are responsible for tossing 10% of that food.

Business Insider / (2014) / http://www.businessinsider.com/why-grocery-stores-throw-out-so-much-food-2014-10

>Food products make up 63 percent of a supermarket’s disposed waste stream, according to a California Integrated Waste Management Board industry study. That’s approximately 3,000 lbs. thrown away per employee every year. The stores can’t sell the food, so they toss it in the compost or garbage. (2010) Supermarkets (in the UK) to reveal just how much food they throw out every year. (2014)

(In 2013) Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, became its first supermarket revealing how much food it wastes every year, an incredible 28,500 metric tons (over 30,000 tons, for those of us in the U.S.) in the first six months of 2012 alone.

The company’s rival retailers announced are now releasing their food waste numbers... to show how much progress they’re making in cutting down on the excess. According to the Guardian, responses to the new initiative are mixed:

Green campaigners said that retailers needed to do more.

Vicki Hird, a food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Food waste has been growing over the last few decades because of the way supermarkets have driven consumption. These figures will indicate how over-purchasing and other poor buying practices are occurring, but retailers need to really examine whether their marketing strategies are fit for purpose in today’s resource-confined world.”

Andrew Opie, director of food sustainability at the BRC, said he believed the new reporting regime would help drive change as part of a broader effort to make retailers more sustainable.

In the U.S., the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that about 40 percent of the food we produce ends up in landfills, and supermarkets are a critical link in that inefficient production chain.

Up to half the food we buy from supermarkets goes in the bin despite much of it being perfectly edible, a report, by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME). It says that up to three quarters of vegetables grown in Britain end up never being eaten, with large amounts being left in the field or rejected by supermarkets for being too ugly.

Author Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said that "Between 30 and 50 per cent of food bought from supermarkets is thrown away. It gets home from the shops, placed in the cupboard or fridge, and then up to half of that food goes in the bin."

Dr Fox: "It is remarkable that you get any food to the table at all. Up to 75 per cent of the veg grown in the UK doesn’t end up being eaten. That’s the bottom line."

"With a lot of vegetables, it is simply the fact that it just doesn’t look right. The crop is not harvested simply because it will not sell, but apart from appearance they are perfectly edible."

The report entitled "Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not," found that more than two billion tons of food is wasted annually.

The study claims that up to 30 percent of perfectly good vegetables are not harvested simply because they aren't pretty. Thirty to 50 percent of the four billion tons of food produced around the world each year never reaches a human mouth.

>DoSomething, a non-profit group from Australia, responded to the UK study of food waste with its own study. "The amount we throw away is staggering. Aussies throw out $8 billion worth of edible food every year..."

In spite of the fact that there is enough food grown in the world to feed every man, woman, and child, 2.3 million children still die of hunger every year. Cutting waste is vital if the world is to meet its food demand as the population grows.

Dr Fox: "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today. The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs..."

(And those 'cosmetically perfect foodstuffs? how are they produced in the dominant agricultural model? the added inputs, often high energy/water and chemical inputs to the production include copious amounts of petrochemicals -- pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, miticides and more to produce 'perfection'... even though the adverse impacts on health and soil and water continue to add up. Think of that beautiful apple, so perfect, without blemish, arranged in produce department displays, under appropriate lighting for optimal marketing -- do you ever think of the waxing that is applied to those batches of heavily sprayed products? The 'perfection' is far from perfect for health and sustainable agriculture.)

Nation by nation, especially in the developed world, the stats are staggering:

Close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted — discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.

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