When it comes to fresh produce, beauty is only skin deep: Many a bruised banana and discolored apple taste just as delicious as their prettier counterparts. And yet, according to The Guardian, America may be tossing as much as half of its fresh produce because of minor cosmetic imperfections.
After conducting extensive research and interviewing farmers around the United States, The Guardian found that food waste occurs not only at the level of consumption, but during the act of production as well. And it’s not just American consumers who are tossing funky looking fruits—it’s farmers and retailers, too.
Together, retailers and consumers waste approximately 60 million tons of produce (worth around $160 billion) each year. That means about a third of all fresh produce is being discarded. Factoring in the amount of produce left unsold or discarded by farmers, that number goes up to approximately 50 percent of all produce ending up in the trash instead of on a table.
Part of the problem, the farmers told The Guardian, is that retail groceries often refuse to purchase imperfect fruits and veggies. In response, farmers often end up leaving imperfect produce in the fields to rot because they see it as unsellable. Other times, they attempt to sell a batch of produce and are rejected because of a few imperfect heads of lettuce or irregular bunches of grapes in an otherwise beautiful shipment. Since many farmers fear losing their connections to major buyers, they rarely protest.
The Guardian explains that reducing food waste—in particular by embracing imperfect foods—could have wide-ranging benefits: Farmers would be able to sell more of their produce, less water and land would be wasted growing uneaten produce, the amount of food filling up landfills would be reduced, and of course, the extra produce could help put food in the mouths of the hungry.
“There are a lot of people who are hungry and malnourished, including in the US,” Shenggen Fan of the International Food Policy Research Institute told The Guardian. “That is why food waste, food loss matters a great deal. People are still hungry.”
[h/t The Guardian]
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