Food waste is rampant in the developed, rich nations of the United States and Western Europe, driven by overwhelming consumption demands on all levels of the supply chain
Farmers are forced to throw out produce that is not up to supermarket’s aesthetic standards and plough under whole fields of ripe produce if market prices aren’t sufficient to cover labour expenses. Produce farmers will often plant a secondary field in case the yields are not as high as expected. If yield requirements are met sufficiently with the primary field, the secondary field is simply ploughed under.
Manufacturers dump whole pallets of food when supermarkets decline a purchase. Supermarkets throw out shelves of food when they’ve passed “best use by” dates, even though the food is still perfectly safe for consumption. In 1995, the USDA found that 5.4 billion pounds of food were thrown out by retailers.
Finally, consumers in the developed world notoriously throw out tons of unconsumed food they let rot – approximately 210-255 lbs per person. Food is viewed as an endless luxury to those who can afford it.
When I was growing up we wasted very little. I think in many ways this was due to the many ways my parents had been raised to reduce waste and their strong connection to agriculture. That connection to agriculture has remained in our family due to my brother being a farmer, and Mr FD being an agronomist. Agriculture is part of our everyday lived experience.
However for many people this is not the case. A friend recently mentioned that she had never actually seen a celery plant growing, and that is a very common experience for many people living in so called “developed” countries. We have lost our connection to agriculture and the central place it plays in our lives.
Too often we are selling our farms to global interests and will only realise too late that the food passing our front door is not going to our markets, but to feed a distant population who has, rather than choose to reduce their wants and wastage, to simply buy their way out of their problems, rather than seek sustainable solutions.
So, what can the “little” person do? Reduce wastage for a start. If one third of what we buy is going into waste, and not even a compost bin, but to land fill, just think of what we can achieve by using every last gram or ounce of what we bring into our home, or grow in our gardens?
We all joke about incubating the cure for cancer in our refrigerators, well, how about taking 10 minutes and actually looking at what is hiding in your fridge and taking a moment to think about using up that food? Ok, maybe it won’t be a restaurant level meal, but let’s admit it, few of us achieve that with every meal we make, do we? Left over vegetables can be thrown in a quiche, or made into hash browns. I can remember my Mum cutting up small amounts of left over roast, and adding egg, onions and whatever else she had in the fridge as a fry up on a Sunday night. We loved it too! I made left over shepherd’s pie into toasted sandwiches frequently when my children were young.
Simple things are often the best is not a phrase that has slipped into our culture without reason. It is true. Simple ways of taking on big issues are often the best. No big radical changes, or hard life style impacts, just a little thought using the things we already have.
An added benefit is that you may very well save a third of your food budget too. No small dollar number for families that one! Maybe you can reward yourself with a massage with the extra money, or a family holiday over a year or eighteen months!
Remember – waste not, want not, maybe an oldie, but a goldie!
[this post also appears here ]