Forty-Percent of U.S. Food is Wasted

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“Particularly wasteful are large buffets, which cannot reuse or even donate most of what is put out because of health code restrictions,” the report said.

The report also blamed retailers.

“The retail model views waste as a part of doing business,” the report said. “Industry executives and managers view appropriate waste as a sign that a store is meeting quality-control and full-shelf standards.”

The report lists the following actions as wasteful retail practices:

  • Stores overstock displays of fresh produce to give an impression of bounty, leaving items at the bottom bruised and unsellable.
  • They make too much ready-to-eat food. "One grocer estimated that his store threw away a full 50% of the rotisserie chickens that were prepared," the report said.
  • They throw out food in damaged or outdated promotional packaging (think holiday cookies) that is still edible.

Farms aren’t excluded from the report’s waste list.

The NDRC found that growers often overplant and have more crops than what is demanded. It also discovered that growers have plenty of edible food, but the food is just not marketable.

“A packer of citrus, stone fruit and grapes estimated that 20% to 50% of the produce he handles is unmarketable but perfectly edible,” the report said.

The report noted that food rotting in landfills makes up for 25% of methane emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane can remain in the atmosphere for up to 15 years and is 20 times more likely to trap heat than carbon dioxide.

The overall findings showed that American waste is 10 times more that the waste in Southeast Asia. It is also up 50 percent since the 1970s.

The report offers several recommendations to the large amount of waste such as using standardization of date labels on food. They believe this can provide some assistance since Americans misread the “sell by” or “use by” messages.

The NDRC said that there has to be economic change as well.

“There is the plain economic truth that the more food consumers waste, the more those in the food industry are able to sell,” the report said.

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