Article by, Roger Cargill, Guest Author
Contact Roger at FinitePhoenix LLC: firstname.lastname@example.org
The food waste non-profit, Refed, “estimates that 24% of all food in the U.S. – 54 million tons – goes to…” waste. I strongly believe this number is understated and underreported.
Food and organic waste consume the majority of the world’s solid waste. As the inhabitants of Earth, we need to leverage the value of this “commodity”, and rather than throwing it away, use it to feed people, animals and the earth.
Food waste sources come from throughout the logistics network, from farm to table as they say. For this article, I focus on food waste from producers.
The biggest reason for waste at the producer level is simply cosmetic: If the orange, apple or head of cauliflower doesn’t meet the unrealistic visual expectations of the retailer (e.g., it’s slightly discolored etc.), then it is either spread back on the field, fed to animals, or in rare circumstances, sent to landfill.
The second is overproduction: A whopping one third of edible produce—or 33.7 percent—remains unharvested in fields and simply plowed back in the soil. This is a much larger percentage than previously reported and it may dramatically increase current estimates of overall food waste in the U.S.—which until now has been long tallied at 40 percent.
Along with over production, “on farm” food waste is impacted by international tariffs. As reported in 2016, and several times since then, cheap cherries imported from Turkey have necessitated maximum crop levels to be enforced. Maximum crop levels are part of an insurance program designed to protect farmers in bad years; however, in good years, and under conditions as those created by cheap imports, crops will remain unharvested and allowed to rot, rather than being consumed. Michigan cherry growers wind-up shaking trees and letting the cherries fall to the ground, or harvesting them and then dumping them somewhere else. Perfectly edible food, dumped on the ground and without going to feed the hungry, or dried, or juiced and made into a sellable product is simply a waste of resources.
What is the solution?
The US needs a healthy food waste policy, one that incentivizes less wasteful behavior and infrastructure development. But the first step is increasing public awareness and education.
Please contact me to learn more about what you can do to help bring about change and reduce food waste.