From Farm to Landfill: World Food Waste
Nearly a billion people worldwide are starving, yet at least 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually. According to a recent report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 30 to 50 percent of the food produced globally is wasted every year. Both developing and industrialized countries waste food, but for different reasons. While developing countries lose a lot of food because of poor infrastructure and lack of proper storage facilities, consumers in wealthy countries waste food because they tend to buy too much food, are picky about the appearance of food, or don’t understand expiration dates.
Irregularly shaped produce accounts for a lot of food waste in industrialized countries. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers report notes that 30 percent of vegetables in the United Kingdom aren’t harvested because they are aesthetically flawed. While the produce is perfectly edible, it is less marketable unless manufacturers can make it look more acceptable. For example, a 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report mentions that some carrot farmers cut down waste by making ugly carrots into baby carrots.
The NRDC report also highlights how wasted food means wasted resources. In the United States—where 40 percent of all food is wasted—10 percent of the country’s total energy, 50 percent of land, and 80 percent of the freshwater go into food production.
Because marketing and consumer practices contribute to food waste in rich countries, some nations are making it more of a priority to reduce waste at the consumer level. According to a recent BBC article, some major U.K. supermarkets, including Morrison’s, are trying to cut waste by changing their practices. “We don’t currently offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on our fruit and vegetables, have relaxed our specifications on this produce to accept more ‘wonky’ crops and offer clear labeling for customers,” says a Morrisons spokesperson.
What do you think food manufacturers, consumers, and governments can do to cut down on food waste?
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