New reports show that 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten.
According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans waste $165 billion worth of food a year.
The NRDC said that more than 20 pounds of food is wasted each month among 311 million Americans. This amounts to $1,350 to $2,275 annually for a family of four.
“Food is simply too good to waste,” the report said. “Given all the resources demanded for food production, it is critical to make sure that the least amount possible is needlessly squandered on its journey to our plates.”
The report found that American homes are the primary source for waste.
“American families throw out approximately 25% percent of the food and beverages they buy,” the report said. Researchers believe that Americans no longer value food since it is sold much cheaper.
“Food represents a small portion of many Americans’ budgets, making the financial cost of wasting food too low to outweigh the convenience of it,” the report said. “The issue of wasted food is simply not on the radar of many Americans, even those who consider themselves environment-or-cost-conscious.”
The report pointed to enticing impulse buys, buying in bulk and eating out as strong contributors to the waste. They believe most Americans decide to eat out even when there is food left in the refrigerator at home. Experts also found that many families who cook are preparing more than what they can actually consume.
The average size of a dinner plate in the U.S. today is 36 percent larger than it was in 1960.
Restaurants are also held responsible in the report.
The report found that 17 percent of restaurant meals are not eaten and too much food is served.
“Today, portion sizes can be two to eight times larger than USDA or FDA standard serving sizes,” the report indicated.
Restaurants are also charged with stocking more than they can actually serve.
“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.