Wasted food a huge energy gobbler

I’ll have to admit, Professor Webster has a point. Food is so abundant in the western world that household trashbins are routinely stuffed with uneaten food. Now If I can just get my mind around eating more leftovers. – Anthony

Discarded restaurant food in trash bins in NYC - Image by petrr via flickr - click

A painless way to achieve huge energy savings: Stop wasting food

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2010 — Scientists have identified a way that the United States could immediately save the energy equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil a year — without spending a penny or putting a ding in the quality of life: Just stop wasting food. Their study, reported in ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, package, prepare, preserve and distribute a year’s worth of food in the United States.

Michael Webber and Amanda Cuéllar note that food contains energy and requires energy to produce, process, and transport. Estimates indicate that between 8 and 16 percent of energy consumption in the United States went toward food production in 2007. Despite this large energy investment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that people in the U.S. waste about 27 percent of their food. The scientists realized that the waste might represent a largely unrecognized opportunity to conserve energy and help control global warming.

Their analysis of wasted food and the energy needed to ready it for consumption concluded that the U.S. wasted about 2030 trillion BTU of energy in 2007, or the equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil. That represents about 2 percent of annual energy consumption in the U.S. “Consequently, the energy embedded in wasted food represents a substantial target for decreasing energy consumption in the U.S.,” the article notes. “The wasted energy calculated here is a conservative estimate both because the food waste data are incomplete and outdated and the energy consumption data for food service and sales are incomplete.”

Percentage of Various Foods Wasted in the U.S.
Fats and oils 33%
Dairy 32%
Grains 32%
Eggs 31%
Sugar and other caloric sweeteners 31%
Vegetables 25%
Fruit 23%
Meat, poultry, fish 16%
Dry beans, peas, lentils 16%
Tree nuts and peanuts 16%
###

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE: http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/abs/10.1021/es100310d

ACS’ Environmental Science and Technology “Wasted Food, Wasted Energy: The Embedded Energy in Food Waste in the United States”

CONTACT:

Michael Webber, Ph.D.

Mechanical Engineering

Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy

The University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas 78712

Phone: 512- 475-6867

Fax: 512- 471-1045

Email: webber@mail.utexas.edu

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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97 thoughts on “Wasted food a huge energy gobbler

  1. petrossa, are you sure about that? In the UK a lot of human food discard that is perfectly suitable for pigs, hens or other omnivorous farm animals, cannot be given to them any more because of draconian health and safety rules. Does the US have a similar problem?
    Huth

  2. Trouble is, most agriculture is a one-way trip. The small farmer (and even the average citizen) is far and long removed from the small farm/garden. Compost the leftovers, or feed them to the dog/chickens/pigs (who deposit back to the land).
    Compostables don’t belong in the landfill, they belong back in the farm/garden.
    It’s only a matter of habit and commercial structure. I.E. – behavioral change.
    Oops, nothing to tax. Move along.

  3. True. A very good point. But don’t eat too much, as you’ll get fat. I prefer to cook few food; if it is not enough, we just eat some fruit for desert. Now I’m quite good as to cooking only what’s absolutely needed… And if too much gets left, it will back into the micro-oven…
    Ecotretas

  4. Well, there are starving children everywhere and even malnourished obese. The flip side of not wasting food is guilt based overconsumption. However, there are the usual low hanging fruit, likely making it easy trying not to waste 10% of our food. Ooops, better some other number.
    =====================

  5. In Vietnam, when the war was going on, the garbage from the messhall (military term for a cafeteria for those who are clueless ) was carried out to the surrounding villages in armed trucks, where it was then collected by the locals. There was never a shortage of people to empty the trucks for scraps of whatever, and it was common for fights to break out over the best stuff. People in the “developed world” should spend some time in a war zone just for the education it provides.

  6. It takes knowledge to use all foodstuff, and it takes time to do it. After a few decades of cooking I’ve learnt to reuse, say, a flavoured oil when frying something else the days after. But less skilled cooks will end up with something rather not-so-tasty when reusing leftovers. It also takes time because most of the time the only way to reuse leftovers is by actually making some new: i.e. cooking. Quite a few of my acquaintances simply don’t have the time for it and throw lots away.
    While I find it an environmentally sound practise, the idea that every stressed businessman, double working family or freshman can reuse leftovers is far fetched.

  7. Food is organic, if we don’t eat it, bacteria will. I don’t see the difference. These useless studies always revolve around reinforcing the idea that:
    1) there is a climate problem that needs to be solved.
    2) we must become more green, in all aspects.
    3) the solution always leads to using less energy, which normalizes the concept of cap your income and traded it away (cap and trade).

  8. In my house, food tends to become ‘wasted’ the moment I prepare or cook it – because I have a bad habit of making more than I need (Eyes Bigger Than Belly Syndrome). The answer isn’t so much to “eat more leftovers,” but rather to avoid creating those leftovers in the first place.

  9. The goal is to live as well as you can, for as long as you can. This seems to have fallen out of favor among the Environmental Illuminati, but every life form on the planet follows that same rule. If one is unwilling to compete on that basis, then one might as well put a gun to ones head and get it over with.

  10. I have a few questions though:
    It seems fair that growing/prodution costs are proportioned in relation to the final wastage, but what is the difference in energy use to transport to wholesale, slaughter/process, wrap (including packaging and manufacturing packaging), retail, transport home, prepare and cook if you have 30% wastage or zero%.
    To buy that bit of grissly meat from teh market, bring it home in your car/SUV, barbeque it, cut the grissle and dispose of on the compost – I can’t see the savings
    Am I little retarded green-wise?
    Andy
    PS I also seem to recollect a viral calculation from a year ago or so, that the carbon footprint of a McDonalds Cheeseburger including the wheet/bread, meat(?), dairy, salads, sauces, salt, packaging, transport, outlet overheads (heating, lighting, cooking etc) when all added up was equal to running a small SUV for a day

  11. “The scientists realized that the waste might represent a largely unrecognized opportunity to conserve energy and help control global warming.”
    If all i have to do to avoid being blown up is to eat my leftover food, we can talk.

  12. The Air Force Academy used to take the leftovers from the dining hall and deliver them to the local hog operations. But what’s the worry? Landfilling food simply sequesters all the carbon and solar energy that went into making it.
    Since those early days, I’d managed to sequester 40 lbs of food myself, but with military discipline I’ve managed to unload about 25 of it.

  13. I’ll have to admit, Professor Webster has a point.
    I agree with you Anthony.
    Their analysis of wasted food and the energy needed to ready it for consumption concluded that the U.S. wasted about 2030 trillion BTU of energy in 2007
    I’ve never been big on energy conservation. If people like to have a toasty warm house in the winter I don’t care. And if people have a house covered with lights at Christmastime I don’t care too. They’re the ones paying the bill. Being comfortably warm in winter and enjoying Christmas isn’t wrong. People shouldn’t have to always be in some form of misery.
    But I hate waste. And a sinful amount of food is wasted in America. I never thought of the waste of energy associated with it.
    This is a very good post! Thanks Anthony! 🙂

  14. I’m not sure if they’re saying that the leftover food should be burned in waste-to-energy plants, or that if we only bought the amount we were going to consume, then the world could produce less food.
    The first idea isn’t new, and the second is far fetched. How many families can gauge exactly how much food to buy, cook and eat? And assuming they could do this, that would lead to surply of food exceeding demand, and a consequent drop in food prices. And this would lead to – an increase in food consumption; Jevon’s paradox.

  15. I’ve got a pair of magpies living in my garden, so I recycle my leftovers into magpie protein. They are natural scavengers and will happily eat practically anything I can eat. I realize this will not be directly applicable in North America where magpies only occur in the west and are much less confiding than in Europe, but why not make more Blue Jays instead?

  16. If you want to reduce the energy and environmental consequences associated with food production you focus on the losses in storage and transport. By some estimates as much as 50% of our food is lost in storage to decomposition and insects. The losses once reaching the consumer is minimal compared to the harvest, storage and transport losses. Irradiation could potentially solve a very large piece of this puzzle and in fact might be one of the most cost effective strategies to improve the quality of our environment and our health (think Ecoli). Irradiation could take a large section of the world’s land surface out of agricultural and put it back to “wild” uses, increase the food supply, reduce the cost of food, reduce nonpoint sources of pollution and reduce runoff energy. Environmental groups as usual are opposed to irradiation. The cynical side me asks-Its not about fixing things- its about blaming people isn’t it?

  17. I think the key here is frugality, a quality that perhaps many have gotten away from. Throwing food away is throwing money away, never mind the energy. But, it takes effort, and yes, work to be efficient food-wise, and in every other aspect of our lives.
    I have heard that one way people waste food is by buying things in bulk, like at Sam’s Club, thinking they will be saving money, but once that container is opened its shelf life can decline pretty rapidly, depending on the food item. There may in fact be more of a tendency to use more than needed, wasting it that way.
    I don’t believe we need to have the Green Police out telling us to eat our peas or else, but certainly education can’t hurt. And the rationale has to be about saving money, not saving the planet.

  18. …”The scientists realized that the waste might represent a largely unrecognized opportunity to conserve energy and help control global warming.”
    ===================
    Doubling up on the guilt trips, eh.
    Note: the intended audience has stopped listening, and started thinking for themselves. Fair warning.

  19. Supermarkets must also shoulder some of the blame for food waste. Buy one – Get one free offers and large ‘tempting’ discounts on bigger packs all put pressure on consumers to buy more than needed. Products are often sold with short ‘Use by’ life – again often with a big price reduction.
    Would be better if food was not wasted, but with the pace of modern life, working couples and limited leisure time fuelling the growth of convenience foods it not surprising that much food is wasted – it is a sign of a thriving and wealth society, as is the growth of obesity amongst population of the developed world. 🙂

  20. Due to, er, financial pressures, we’ve reduced food shopping substantially and cut out a lot of wastage. We’re buying less, cooking less, and throwing less away. We eat smaller meals. Still hungry? Eat an apple. We’re much healthier.
    The key has been to make better use of local shops, which thankfully are still plentiful in our area and are very close by. It is easy to pop in on the way home a couple of days a week and buy enough (and only enough) for specific meals. It has opened my eyes to how much we wasted before and I wouldn’t go back to our old ways.

  21. A friend of mine is a school volunteer. He says the poor kids usually toss their milk and fruit unopened and un touched.

  22. My family wastes very little food, and if you reach across the dining room table you are likely to get injured!

  23. @ Verity Jones says:
    October 3, 2010 at 2:29 pm
    Due to, er, financial pressures, we’ve reduced food shopping substantially and cut out a lot of wastage. We’re buying less, cooking less, and throwing less away. We eat smaller meals. Still hungry? Eat an apple. We’re much healthier.
    The key has been to make better use of local shops, which thankfully are still plentiful in our area and are very close by. It is easy to pop in on the way home a couple of days a week and buy enough (and only enough) for specific meals. It has opened my eyes to how much we wasted before and I wouldn’t go back to our old ways.

    Be careful about “Just in time” grocery shopping. It makes you totally dependent on the upstream supply chain for your daily bread, which would put you in a very untenable position if there were to be an interruption in that chain.

  24. If a fast food franchise sends the used oil from its fryers to a recycler to be converted into biodiesel, the food value is wasted but its energy content is not. This distinction doesn’t seem to be accounted for in the papers calculations. Much of the loss in the system occurs before the food ever reaches the end consumer, in harvesting, transport,processing and distribution. Because of market economics those involved are already doing everything they are allowed to do to minimize those losses and as has been pointed out above government regulations and restrictions are often the biggest enemies of further efficiencies. Only a few decades ago the variety of food and the number venues where it was available were many orders of magnitude smaller than they are today. Going back to the conditions of food availability that prevailed in the 50s and 60s would save massive amounts of energy, but good luck with selling that idea in the current world. You could limit the amount of bad milk that goes down the drain by mandating that it only be sold in pint containers, but the extra packaging would probably eat up any savings from reduced waste and again would face serious resistance from consumers.
    There undoubtedly savings to be garnered from reducing waste in the food supply, but they will not be simple to achieve and are probably nowhere near the magnitude of the numbers advanced in the work.

  25. The problem I have isn’t at home, we’ve managed to get that one down to a fine art between the two of us. It’s at some restaurants which serve up a huge main course that makes me feel bad when I can’t eat it all. More restaurants doing lite portions like some do would be a good idea I think.

  26. Minimizing wate in all forms is certainly a a venue worth pursuing, and this one ought to be looked at more closely.
    But while I was reading , it reminded my of something else, I recalled having some years back seen an article about hunger in the world that something 30% – 40% of the harvest and food grown in some underdeveloped parts of the worlds , went bad or ended up as ratfood or something like that, because of lack of decent storage facilities . In other words f.x. because there was no access to energy to drive a frigde , or simply if the energy was at hand people could not afford to install them etc. so a good deal foodstuff simply rotted away , if the small scavengers left any of it intact . The point the author was making was that one way to deal with world hunger was that a considerable improvement in battling that could be made from relatively little investment in energy infrastructure and simple improvements in food storage methods.
    In other words there is more tha a one side on this coin.

  27. As Pat Moffitt says:
    October 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Irradiation would save much more than all the other ideas combined.
    And here’s another, more off the wall, idea: there’s increasing evidence that some adeno viruses cause our bodies to be much more efficient in absorbing energy from our food. (Saw an article several years ago in Science News involving rats; recently saw an article in the NYTimes giving partial blame for the obesity epidemic) We could seed the world with the right viruses and reduce food needs. (This is for those who would geoengineer the world…)

  28. This guy gets PAID to produce this tripe?
    Sorry, UTOPIA, UTOPIA, UTOPIA!
    Excuse me while I go off and design power plants and things that PRODUCE energy.
    AND don’t have the “overtone” of “saving the world”. I go to church for my religion.

  29. Children, clean your plates. No pressure.
    Our family farm used table scraps and peels from fruits and veggies for hogs and chickens. Why can’t restaurants recycle food scraps?

  30. At my house almost no food gets wasted and the only extra energy required for leftovers is a little electricity for the microwave. I don’t think I’m unusual in that regard.

  31. Curiousgeorge (October 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm)
    “Be careful about “Just in time” grocery shopping. It makes you totally dependent on the upstream supply chain for your daily bread, …”
    Indeed. It is really only for fresh food and perishables and we’ve kind of evolved a mixed system anyway where some stuff is bought well ahead. And then the store cupboard staples such as the 20kg bag of rice and a well-stocked freezer helps. I kind of like being opportunisitic though and taking advantage of seasonal gluts.
    Dave Wendt (October 3, 2010 at 3:05 pm)
    “Much of the loss in the system occurs before the food ever reaches the end consumer, in harvesting, transport,processing and distribution.”
    Working for the food industry opened my eyes to waste in a big way. So much ‘quality’ is dependant on uniform shape and size that vast quantities of produce never even leave the farm or are sent as animal food, when it is perfectly edible. Even within a factory the difference between premium and low cost lines of a product is often simply lower tolerances – for example a low cost pack of frozen fries will have the same potatoes in them, but a greater number of ‘small bits’ than the premiuml line, oh and cheaper packaging.
    In a factory producing bread, most of the wastage will be mishapen but perfectly edible loaves, and particularly where value-added products are produced, sometimes up to 25% of a ‘sliced product’ will be discarded simply because the slices are too small. As consumers, the choices we make often dictate the production of waste we don’t see. I am not advocating we all stop buying ‘convenience foods’ but it has made me more aware and willing to rethink what I do and don’t buy.
    Björn (October 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm)
    An excellent point.

  32. Many posters speak of individual efforts to not waste food. Personally very good but that won’t stop production. You would have to limit food production in order to really save energy and that is not going to happen. Most of us are careful with out food budgets but we still desire variety in our choices so all of those choices must be available on a daily basis. What one doesn’t want one day may be desired by someone else. I suppose the world governments could get together and impose a basic human diet on everyone and only allow production of those essentials (except for themselves I would bet). While they are at it, perhaps they could also impose a simple uniform that everyone must wear in order to save even more energy.

  33. Australia banned the feeding of pigs with food scraps several decades ago – rightly or wrongly.
    If the estimated 27% wastage was removed there would be a large financial flow-through that would affect many people in the food chain as that amount of food would not need to be produced, transported, stored, sold, etc. Borderline profitable businesses (there must be some) could fail; most businesses dislike falls in income/profits so this could cause an increase in prices to maintain income; many costs are kept lower due to economies of scale – reduce the throughput and possibly remove these economies .
    Reducing waste, although a commendable idea that I approve of, is not as simple as it sounds. There will be unintended consequences, as there are for any major change in our societies.

  34. I just love this topic. Once upon a time in the USA, we had the perfect gatherer, preserver, preparer, inventor and disposer of food. She was called a homemaker. Her kitchen contained twenty or so pots and pans of various sizes and half of them were in use at any given time. She had fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden along with canned or frozen ones from last year. The main input to a dinner might be a ham, but the outputs of fats, juices, and oils that were carried over to later meals often exceeded the inputs to this meal. Items that would be stale before the next meal were passed to hogs, pets, or chickens. Her pantries were a veritable treasure trove of colors, smells, textures and treats.
    I wonder what a homemaker would cost today, if you could buy one? The training alone would be the equivalent of a Ph.D., yet in the old days some homemakers had mastered their craft by their early twenties.

  35. My county requires a certain amount of garbage for feeding their incinerator. I’m just doing my part to help.

  36. @ Theo Goodwin says:
    October 3, 2010 at 4:48 pm
    I just love this topic. Once upon a time in the USA, we had the perfect gatherer, preserver, preparer, inventor and disposer of food. She was called a homemaker.

    =================================
    I’ve had mine for over 40 years and she’s still going strong. 🙂

  37. As no doubt many other commenters did as well, I grew up in a home in which we were taught to not waste food. I try to instill this with my kids. However, I have come to recognize that this is not necessarily the significant virtue I once thought it was. Instead, I see lots of different kinds of consumption, and I am not sure I can put one above the other in terms of rightness or virtue.
    For example, it occurs to me that I have many books, CD’s, DVD’s that I rarely, if ever, turn to, listen to or watch. How much energy could have been saved had I not bought them? Ditto for all the ties and pairs of pants in my closet (some of which have never been worn and still have the tags on them), the extra bike, the extra pairs of binoculars, the second car, etc. Everything requires energy to design, produce, ship and (if possible on the back end) recycle. If I choose to buy a bunch of DVD’s and CD’s this year that I really don’t need, but my neighbor leaves his porch light on all night during the year, which of us is committing the greater sin in terms of energy consumption? Who knows? What if, instead of leaving his porch light on all night, my neighbor wastes more food than I do because he doesn’t like leftovers? Is that better or worse? Again, who knows?
    I am not advocating pure relativism. I do believe we should have an attitude of gratitude and, dare I say, reverence for what we have. That attitude will lead us to be more careful stewards of our resources, both individually and collectively. However, I no longer think we can easily point to someone’s particular consumption habits and conclude that they should change.

  38. Interesting comments here, esp by Theo Goodwin above. I have just emptied out my Compost Bin , giving my vegetable garden a rich fill of organic matter, my guard dog gets the remainder of cooked food. There is very little waste here, but not everyone is fortunate to have the area to recycle. For those that do, I recommend a large Compost bin, and keep it aerobic.

  39. Re: TomRude @ October 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm
    “Halloween pumpkin waste anyone?”
    You mean holloween pumpkin that goes off from spending too long deciding whether to make pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin curry, roast pumpkin or pumpkin rissotto?
    Having some friends over is also a great way to cure having too much food.

  40. Folks- read the article again: it’s about wasting petroleum, not food. Food is entirely recyclable whether you pass it thru your GI tract first or not, so it makes no difference if you “waste” the food. It’s the petroleum used to produce & deliver the food that’s not renewable and therefore “wasted.”

  41. “Theo Goodwin says:
    October 3, 2010 at 4:48 pm”
    Theo, function in the real world be damned, I’m thinking that the most truely enlightened and necessary panacea for all our sinning is Victory Gin. Plus, Universal Healthcare couldn’t get along without it.

  42. Grocery stores throw out massive quantities of good food. They have their employees do things like pour yogurt all over buns to deliberately make such an ugly mess in the dumpster that a homeless person won’t eat the food. Retailers have employees cut the toes out of socks (for one example) when doing write-offs during inventory. Policy usually prevents alternatives, since the theory is that employees will deliberately damage product if they figure they might get to take it home for free or donate it to charity. And has anyone ever bought flowers? Any idea how many people work in that industry? A lot of nice people (most scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck)… Perhaps balance (rather than “all-or-nothing”) is a sensible place to start if contemplating a worthwhile rearrangement of the furniture.

  43. Most of us waste some food. Try not to really hard and you will end up eating something that will turn you inside out. That can be very costly.
    But if you want to see waste — visit a hospital and do an audit of the things that enter via the delivery doors and the piles of stuff that exit via the waste chutes. Things taken to a patient’s room, such as a carton of milk or juice and not opened or even touched, and not consumed go directly to the trash – and many meals are barely touched. All manner of non-food items used for and by the patient are tossed. This saves lives.
    In many instances waste is in the mind of the beholder.

  44. GuidoLaMoto writes:
    “Folks- read the article again: it’s about wasting petroleum, not food.”
    Follow my homemaker. Where is food delivered using petroleum? The homemakers I knew could do all I describe without petroleum or delivery of food. I mentioned canning, but electricity is not necessary for that.

  45. Curiousgeorge says:
    October 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm
    “I’ve had mine for over 40 years and she’s still going strong. :)”
    You are one blessed and blissful man. If ever I hear a discouraging word from you, I will be shocked.

  46. Ecotretas says:
    October 3, 2010 at 11:45 am
    “True. A very good point. But don’t eat too much, as you’ll get fat. I prefer to cook few food; if it is not enough, we just eat some fruit for desert. Now I’m quite good as to cooking only what’s absolutely needed…”
    Cheapskate Larry agrees. I’m reasonably good at listening to my body’s messages about what, when (when I’m physically hungry–duh), and how much to eat.
    Example. I usually include a 4-oz (113 g) burger in my second meal of the day. On some days, it’s barely enough, but usually it’s not. On most days, after I’ve eaten my burger, I need to nosh on some white Cheddar until my Protein Jones is satisfied. To me, white Cheddar tastes great straight, and when I’ve had enough, I put it back into the frig. (I have slightly higher than usual protein requirements, because of the strength training I do for my upper legs.) The upshot: I don’t waste perfectly good beef.

  47. 47 comments and no one has raised the important issue on energy. While we need to minimize waste, there will be organic matter that can be turned into energy. Its true that corn ethanol is just welfare for ADM and other large corporations.
    But, there is a way of dealing with food waste that is environmental and adds to our energy supply. It is anerobic digestion of green waste, food grease, municipal green, waste, manure, and food processing wastes. If my memory hasn’t totally failed, 10-15% of California’s energy can be produced from biomass and anerobic digestion is the best method. Green waste and food waste are mixed is a large tank without oxygen to produce methane. The methane is best injected into the natural gas pipeline but the gas could run a generator locally. After the one-two week process completes, there is a rich organic mix of solids and liquids that can be returned to the field. This doesn’t make Monsanto very happy but it is good for the soil.
    Besides Monsanto, the hedge funds don’t want loan money for this and the Green movement (especially the Sierra Club) is opposed because the green waste isn’t composted. There has been the growth of a composting religion that stands in the way of turning the green/food waster to energy before the organic residue results. In fact, San Francisco is trucking its green waste 100+ miles to the central valley or Napa to compost the material rather than using large tanks at SFO to generate renewable electricity for the airport.
    A couple of months ago, we met with a developer from Texas that was trying to sell us 1 million mmBTU’s of biogas from a dairy each year. The price was high and getting it too California added to the expense. That amount of gas would run a two 8 MW turbine or reciprocating engines year round.

  48. Verity Jones says:
    October 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm
    “Working for the food industry opened my eyes to waste in a big way. So much ‘quality’ is dependant on uniform shape and size that vast quantities of produce never even leave the farm or are sent as animal food, when it is perfectly edible.”
    That’s true most of the time, but there’s an important exception.
    Q: Do you know why pears of a given variety are more uniform in size, color, and shape than most other fresh fruit?
    A: Pear-group pressure. 🙂
    [Warning: For that one you’re banned for life. Or for the next 15 minutes, whichever comes first. ~dbs]

  49. Re: Keith Minto and compost.
    Add a worm farm and then all kitchen scraps that are vegetable are eaten in days. Worm juice and the castings are wonderful for plants.
    We use leftovers by creating another dish, usually by cooking rice as an accompaniment and making a sauce of some sort.

  50. There is prolific food waste from households and retail outlets, especially fast-food and grocery stores. Although some regions in the US attempt organic recycling of household wasted food, it is difficult to implement and enforce, and composting sites are often plagued by odors, flies, rodents and other pests. We simply over-buy at our big-box stores and suffer the consequences….no corner green-grocers or fish mongers as in Britain.
    The food processing industries, by contrast, do a very good job of minimizing wasted food products. They recognize that the best value is obtained from some product that ends up in a human’s mouth, so their QC, product salvage and waste minimization procedures are impressive.
    At Kraft Foods, nearly nothing was lost from the natural cuts cheese department (Champaign, IL, largest food plant in the world at the time). If it didn’t make it into a cellophane package, the cheese ended up as processed cheese or other product. Cheese that fell onto the floor was picked up dry & recycled as animal food, and even inedible cheese (floor drain recovery) was used for pet food.
    This is a very good book on the subject, one of my papers was cited as a reference:
    Michael L. Westendorf, Ph.D. et.al. in “Food Waste to Animal Feed,” ISBN 0-8138-2540-7.

  51. One thing I would like to see ended is the two-for-one offer at the Supermarket. Or the three-for-a-pound etc. So much is bought on impulse that was never wanted in the first place. (and it never seems to be on food that keeps well)

  52. Anthony– “I’ll have to admit, Professor Webster has a point. Food is so abundant in the western world that household trashbins are routinely stuffed with uneaten food.”
    And your point is? Excess food means we are on the safe, healthy and positive side of the food supply. And we should be very happy we are. So how much less food should we grow so as not to waste? Must I rush home because if I don’t drink my milk tonight it will spoil. What if tonight I just don’t feel like eating that brocolli? Who is going to control this-how do we use this information? How – considering it takes several months to produce the crops -is the producer to know how much to grow given variable demands and the vagaries of weather so as not to produce a surplus? Does this mean we should regulate or prevent growing certain crops because they use “more” energy? What are the risks that by growing less to prevent waste we don’t grow enough? Whether food goes bad in my refrigerator or is unsold in the market it is pretty much the same from an energy standpoint.
    If one wants to solve the “problem” – irradiate the food supply -a proven technology known to be safe and effective that can materially improve food security. It would also have massive side benefits to both environmental quality, human health, price and energy conservation. Not only does irradiation reduce the massive losses in storage and transportation it allows the food to stay on our shelf longer before we need to throw it out. An irradiated strawberry after 18 days at 10C is still free of mold, sweet and tasty. A non-irradiated strawberry after 3 days at the same temp is if not inedible certainly unsaleable. One would guess if our perishable produce had 6 times the shelf life we would throw away less solving this Prof’s concern.
    I was in Asia several years ago when the first food riots broke out due in large part to what bio-fuels have done to food prices in the 3rd world. If you think ideological energy regulation is a concern-consider the 50 + million dead caused by Stalin and Mao’s ideological food programs to see where this type of thinking can go. This paper is pure propaganda and for those that have never been hungry– a heads up-it is very dangerous propaganda.
    I have little respect left for academia.

  53. Phil’s Dad says: at 8:06 pm
    “ (and it never seems to be on food that keeps well) ”
    Okay Dad, think about that for a second.

  54. Surely, denizens of WUWT must appreciate that, like glaciers that are either retreating or advancing, sea levels that are either rising or falling and ice ages that are either receding or approaching, over-production of food is inevitable if you want to avoid under-production.
    Our good friend, the weather (or is that climate?), is obviously constantly interfering with plans to raise just the right amount of food, but there are many, many other factors that confound such attempts, not least the fact that what would be best for the industry is not necessarily what would be best for the individual producer. When there’s a glut of broccoli, any one farmer’s best option is to produce as much as he possibly can, so as to be able to stay in the race. Form a co-op or a cartel and then you’re in collusion.

  55. My parents grew up in UK during WW2 when food was rationed because of its lack of availability. They learnt to treat it as a precious resource and to waste as little as they could. And they were good enough to pass on their knowledge to me.
    It isn’t difficult – just buy what you can immediately envisage using. Make a list of what you need before you go to the supermarket, and buy only that – plus an occasional treat. If you can’t use something immediately – stick it in the freezer..and remember to look there every now and then rather than to go shopping.
    Don’t be easily seduced by advertising….I assume that you are sentient human beings as much able to make your own decisions when shopping as you can when driving or working or any other activity.
    In UK it has been estimated that one third of all food bought is eventually thrown away. Another way to look at it is that for every £100 spent on grub, you throw away £33. So in an hour at Tesco or Aldi or Waitrose or Fortnum’s, by being sensible, you can ‘win’ yourself £33. Sounds like a deal to me!

  56. Lars, I like your point. I would go further: people who can’t find the time not to waste food also can’t find the time to think. That’s the real issue and why misinformation gets as far as it does before someone says, hey wait a minute….
    My local council has started to compost waste food and sell it back to the wasters to grow their flowers in. Good idea. Maybe it will get to the US sometime.

  57. @pat moffit
    ‘And your point is? Excess food means we are on the safe, healthy and positive side of the food supply. And we should be very happy we are. So how much less food should we grow so as not to waste? Must I rush home because if I don’t drink my milk tonight it will spoil. What if tonight I just don’t feel like eating that brocolli?’
    Alternatively one might posit that anybody who is unable to plan ahead to buy the right amount of one of the basic necessities of life is not very good at planning. And wilful waste ‘just because you can’ as you teeter on advocating is just plain wrong..or arrogant..or both.

  58. Years ago there was a system of recycling food in the form of compost in the netherlands. Organic matter was collected separately in garbage collection. After about 5 years or so they got stuck with a mountain of compost so big they send out ad’s that one could collect as much as wanted for free. Evidently not many takers in regard to the 1000’s of tons of compost. So the organic food recycling was scrapped.
    As for industrial waste, all organic matter is processed into animalfeed. As a working student i did some dirty jobs, but the most disgusting was working the offal container for a slaughterhouse. Everything remotely digestible went in there, including dead pets collected from vet’s. The resulting mess was send of to an animal foodplant. Dogfood, cattelefeed, chickenfeed etc.
    Maybe on a household basis food gets wasted, but nowhere near the remarkably unscientific numbers presented in the paper.

  59. Latimer Alder says: And wilful waste ‘just because you can’ as you teeter on advocating is just plain wrong..or arrogant..or both.
    I offer a plan (irradiation) that can reduce the amount of land needed by agriculture by 25 to 50% while also reducing the cost of food and improving health. It cuts down waste on every step in the production and consumption chain. And once it reaches the end consumer- it allows for those “less planning perfect” to to have more days to decide on eating that last bit of brocolli. Or how about lets stop turning corn into fuel..Or subsidizing rice crops grown in an American desert which we don’t eat and dump on 3rd world markets or preventing the higher yield potentials of GM crops. I just can’t take anyone seriously that talks about the energy balance in ag production and doesn’t as a first step promote irradiation, GM, stop ethanol and the subsidizing of crops we don’t want.
    And where did you get that figure for throwing away 30% of the food we buy? I’ld bet a lot that consumers in the US don’t throw away anywhere near 30% of their produce.
    So how much is your “better planning” going to save in terms of energy, chemicals, soil loss and land opportunity costs? And please- I did not advocate the wanton wasting of food. But do “teeter” at the general hypocrisy that offers solutions that at best will have minimal impact while ignoring solutions that address the problem through the entire cycle.
    But I guess if we did make the food production system more efficient you would not be able to scold us lesser mortals on our sinful ways.

  60. My wife is good at cooking great meals from left overs. What we have left the dog has.
    We are trying, in the UK, to get people to waste less. throwing money into the rubbish bin is a stupid idea. But perhaps, since we are no longer allowed to feed food waste to pigs as swill, due to Health and Safety theories, we do not have the infrastructure to cope with this. Bio-digesters are good at converting this waste to methane, to heat directly or produce electricity, so this may be the way to go on a small scale for a household. What is left from the digester can be used as garden compost. I expect there will be environmental issues with this.

  61. I just read the paper cited in this study that found 27% food waste. This figure is for commercial and institutional settings and includes food spilled, failed preparations and failing to project how many meals would be requested on any given day as well as losses from insect infestation. These institutions also have restrictions on what they can put back in storage.
    The number used for the homeowner is up to 6% waste made up by food not prepared, spillage, portions prepared but uneaten and is pushed to 6% level in homes with small children (My parenting days saw anything less than 50% of the food on the floor, me,the baby, walls and furniture as a victory) So Latimer perhaps you need to scold your fellow Brits about their profligate waste of food— seems we “teeterers” are doing a damn fine job considering you tell us you are throwing away 5 times the food compared to us Yanks.
    It seems to me that very little could be done to improve on the 6% number waste— I see that as a minimum safety factor in the production feedback.
    So with this information in hand we can’t get rid of this waste to any meaningful degree– especially the instutional losses.

  62. When I was very small we had, besides a “trash can” on the back porch, a “garbage can” set into the ground at the bottom of the back steps. You opened it by stepping on a small pedal. Several times a week a local pig farmer would stop by and empty it.
    The pig farms were usually smelly. They were therefore set outside the larger cities. In the Boston area they were in the exact location where the more wealthy suburbs now reside. (Towns like Weston and Lincoln.)
    As a boy I watched the wealthy people move in and the pig farmers move out. As a radical teenager I called the wealthy people “the new pigs.”
    Pigs are really easy to raise, and the smell is greatly reduced if one takes the time to clean pens on a regular basis. If the wealthy are really concerned about wasting food, I suggest every wealthy suburb’s neighborhood raise a pig or two.
    The problem is that pigs are such cheerful and jaunty creatures that the tender-hearted just about have nervous breakdowns when the family pigs are sent off to be slaughtered. However fresh, home-raised pork-chops are so much better than mass-produced pork that even the tender-hearted usually get over their grief.

  63. The problem is a city thing. Anything biodegradable or combustable (i.e. not metal or plastic) at my hacienda either gets tossed on the ground where it becomes food for bacteria, plants, and animals or into the fireplace for heat, light, and enjoyment.
    I’m also thinking of renaming my two dogs to Prewash Boy and Prewash Girl. Any food scrap, no matter how small, left on a plate after a meal is over will quickly disappear if the plate is moved from the table to the floor. One needs to work with nature rather than work around it. That isn’t always possible in urban environments. Man wasn’t meant to live in concrete jungles.

  64. I’d like to see a better definition of ‘waste’.
    Currently it includes inedible parts, egg shells, banana skins etc, even chicken carcass after being boiled for stock.. Nearly all my domestic food waste is not edible. And what do orange juice manufacturers do with all the peel – is that ‘food waste’??
    cheers David

  65. I have never seen hunger in my life, but my parents and grandparents had. There was severe famine in the besieged Budapest (the siege lasted for 102 days from first contact to capture) and in the months after the country was taken. Believe me, in times like that not a scrap of food gets wasted.
    The memory of mass starvation is a lasting one. The sheer emotional stress in the whispered voice of elders while talking about the horrors of starvation is enough to leave an indelible trace in the youthful mind. I still get nervous on seeing food getting wasted and could not help but pass on some of this trait to my own kids.
    That said, being in a position to be able to afford some waste is desirable, forced frugality in handling food is a sure sign of misery.
    Food security is more important than people realize and having some excess is one of the devices by which it can be attained. The security bought may well worth the expenses.
    Food is a special commodity, for as soon as the population is denied of its consumption for several months, its very market gets destroyed. Dead people are neither able to make money nor to rebuild anything. Remembrance of the post war misery is still lingering over Europe, playing a decisive part in defining peculiarities of European agricultural policy.
    There is no upper limit to the price of food. If it gets a scarce resource, people will pay anything to get it, wealth is thoroughly redistributed in no time. The free market is simply inadequate to handle such a situation properly.
    During the war Britain lived under the continuous threat of famine due to lack of self sufficiency and ongoing destruction of her shipping capacity, even if it had never materialized, at least not on British homeland. Bengal (present day Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal) is another story. As part of the British Empire of that time, they have seen a severe market-induced famine in 1943-44, killing off several million.
    Starvation in the British Empire might have been bad, but it was worse in post war Germany, or rather the stateless region under military rule once called the Third Reich. In 1945-47 food availability was insufficient, during that time for seven months daily rations were decreased to as low as 1280 kcal/capita, resulting in 1.5 million dead and a 60% infant mortality rate.
    Hunger is not a third world thing, not even restricted to war zones. The last time the old Hungarian Kingdom has seen starvation due to natural causes was in 1816, the year without summer, aftermath of Tambora explosion. That time some twenty thousand people were starved to death in Transylvania.
    As for now, world food reserves being at an all time low, any disturbance of the market can bring about a price explosion. The most likely scenario is a major volcanic eruption somewhere in the tropics, followed by global cooling and worldwide crop failures. Such an event could easily evoke a famine of epic proportions, unprecedented in human history so far, with hundreds of millions, even billions dead.
    In face of such dangers present day waste can be considered an emergency resource, should circumstances deteriorate, it can easily draw the margin between life and death.

  66. @Verity Jones
    Just wanted to say that I’ve bookmarked and am now following your blog. I advise others to give it a gander, too.
    Nice comments.
    Mark

  67. Phil’s Dad says:{October 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm}
    “One thing I would like to see ended is the two-for-one offer at the Supermarket. Or the three-for-a-pound etc. So much is bought on impulse that was never wanted in the first place. (and it never seems to be on food that keeps well)”
    C’mon, put your thinking cap on. Why would a retail outlet, whose purpose is to make a profit, give away stuff? Cause they are overstocked and need to move the merchandise.
    Major food stores order what they expect to sell well in advance so when an item doesn’t move as fast as predicted they must make room for the new shipment of the same item. Bad news for the store’s profit margin, good news for consumers. These sales are also used as “leader” sales, to entice people to come into the store. Once in the store a person will usually buy all of what they need even if some of the items are slightly higher than their normal store rather than taking the time and inconvenience to go somewhere else to save a few pennies. Good for the store’s profit margin, bad for the consumer. The trick is to balance the two ideas to take advantage of the two for ones and not to pay the higher prices for everything else.

  68. Wasting food saves lives. If you don’t waste food, then, in a year of poor harvests, you starve. Producing more food than we can eat gives us a vital margin against disaster. Trying to eliminate “over-production” and “waste” would be foolish in the extreme.

  69. Not sure I want to raise my head above the parapet here, but……. We, here in the UK and the rest of Europe, have massive taxes on petrol/diesel/gas and our food is pretty expensive too, mostly for that reason. It does make you think a bit more carefully when shopping (although cleaning products seem to make my supermarket bills rocket) – it is partly for that reason that I grow our vegetables (the other part for taste and lack of pesticides). I also notice that I don’t pick as many vegetables for a meal because I want to eke out the crop for as many meals as possible so I waste less that way. In a supermarket I’m more inclined to grab a large handful knowing I can’t come back for more if I haven’t got enough whereas with homegrown I can nip out into the garden and get a few more if necessary. Gluts are interesting – my freezer is full of tomato soup/sauce and the jam cupboard full of apple jelly in various guises, plum jam and blackberry jam.
    I digress…perhaps a hike in US petroleum taxes might make a dent in food purchasing/waste?
    Ok, I’m diving for cover now!

  70. @pat moffit
    You say ‘So Latimer perhaps you need to scold your fellow Brits about their profligate waste of food— seems we “teeterers” are doing a damn fine job considering you tell us you are throwing away 5 times the food compared to us Yanks’
    I was very careful to state my statistics referred to the UK, and did not make any remarks about habits in any other countries. If it is the case that in your country the figures are so much less, then I am delighted…but it was not the overall figure for waste that prompted my contribution..it was the closeness to the line of glorification of the possibility of wasting food from your earlier remark.
    And I would sold anyone from whatever country – UK, US or Martiansville, Vensuland for doing so. It is wrong. Period.
    (Or Full Stop as we would correctly have it over here in the Mother Country)

  71. @paul birch
    ‘Wasting food saves lives. If you don’t waste food, then, in a year of poor harvests, you starve. Producing more food than we can eat gives us a vital margin against disaster. Trying to eliminate “over-production” and “waste” would be foolish in the extreme’
    Ummm… you’ll have to run that past me again. Your argument is that you grow more than you need, then wilfully let it rot. Because next time there’s a bad harvest you won’t have it to eat?? Surely some mistake here. To parpahrase an old proverb…..you cannot throw away your cake as waste and then come back to eat it. Its gone.
    How about..you gorw more than you need for now and carefully store it so that next time there;s a bad harvest, then you still have it to eat until the next good harvest comes around.
    Exactly the opposite argument from your specious one ….you treat food as a valuable resource and look after it because you truly don’t know where the next meal is coming from

  72. I don’t think that over-production is the problem, as cited in previous comments. I must say that when I visit the US and have a meal out in a restaurant, I am appalled at the SIZE OF THE PLATE, and the SIZE OF THE SERVINGS of the meal…as well as how inexpensive it is! We eat very well in Canada, and food waste is certainly not unique here, but it’s no wonder my US friends are having increasing weight and health problems due to the amount and frequency of food eaten, along with the choices. In addition, restaurants must display “perfect” food in appearance (as well as safe food), so much of the restaurant waste must be from having to throw own anything that does not meet those requirements, to say nothing about what the suppliers must discard. I’d say that we should start in our own homes to REDUCE SIZE OF SERVINGS, for one thing, and to USE GOOD LEFT-OVERS creatively in healthy and attractive dishes of all kinds. Another issue with all of this are the costs of packaging – unnecessary packaging, for the most part, along with how frustrating it is to get stuff open!!!!! I’ve also found that in the US on my visits, even my family tends to be quite far behind in every aspect of “reduce-reuse-recycle” practices from where we are in a small rural community way up north. EDUCATION IS KEY!

  73. Latimer– where is your indignation that we have not irradiated food, stopped biofuels, championed GM and ceased the subsidization of unwanted crops? Such an approach might save more than 50% of our energy expended on Ag production improving health, food security and the environment in the process. Yet you evoke such righteous indignation towards personal choice that may save little or no energy while introducing a large food security risk. Your logic is akin to ignoring a giant hole in a reservoir’s dam while lecturing people who take showers longer than 2 minutes.
    Again I did not glorify wasting food- but having seen hunger- do appreciate surplus. Consider China– white rice is served at the end of a formal meal by the host and is not to be eaten by the guest so as to honor the host for serving enough food. In a country with a history of famine– surplus has great meaning. (Being of Irish descent perhaps I get a bit testy when a Brit lectures me about wasting food. In the 1800s the Brits told the Irish that having ANY food was wasteful.)
    And I say again -you either don’t understand the 30% waste figure you cite or are mistaken as to the correct number. There is no way individual consumers in the UK are throwing away 30% of their produce. Remember wasted food has many components and many are beyond the control of the end user. Here is my reference for my claims —-Kantor, L. S.; Lipton, K. “Estimating and addressing America’s food losses” Food Rev. 1997, 20 ( 1) 2 Where’s yours?
    IMHO it is those that feel morally superior championing ideas that feel good rather than do good that deserve a good scolding.

  74. @pat moffit
    Oh dear, oh Lor! You are getting yourself into a tizz.
    I’ve expressed no opinion about the virtues or otherwise of irradiating food. As far as I know I have no opinion about it at all :-). I am not denigrating the idea..if I had time to study it I might well be persuaded that it is the most splendid idea since the invention of sliced bread.
    All I was pointing out is that deliberately buying food that you cannot/do not use and that then goes to waste is wrong. Like leaving litter in the street is wrong, blowing up kiddies in 10:10 videos is wrong or knowingly maltreating pet animals is wrong.
    Lots of things that people do are wrong…to mention one without producing a comprehensive list of all the others does not imply that they are somehow ‘right’..it just means that they are not hugely relevant to the topic under discussion.
    But go ahead…go and buy something tasty (irradiated or not) but just chuck it away without eating it…its your right to do so, And after all it would have been produced anyway whether you bought it or not…so you can feel smugly satisfied that your decision to do so is morally neutral. I just happen to disagree with you. The ‘if I didn’t do it, somebody else would’ train of argument is a slippery slope.
    The 30% figure is widely quoted in UK as the amount of domestic food purchased but thrown away. I do not have a source..it may even be anecdotal, but as far as I know nobody has seriously challenged it. So on the basis that it probably ‘feels right’ I suggest that we can use it. Even if it were only 10%, the savings by not buying the stuff in the first place would be substantial.
    I also submit that in countries where food shortages are a real and recurrent problem, the husbandry of what little food there is means that the percentage wasted is very close to zero.

  75. PS
    @pat moffit
    As I share my life with an authentic born and bred Dubliner – with all the fiery temperament and obsession with Irish history that come with her, I am all too familiar with the myths and legends surrounding the famine caused by the potato blight of the mid 1800s.
    But it seems a somewhat perverse argument to suggest that because (allegedly) some misguided people made some stupid and ignorant remarks nearly two hundred years ago, that you should take offence at my espousal of exactly the opposite viewpoint.
    Go figure.

  76. I was watching a “Modern Marvels” program about carbonated drinks and they ALL use CO2. So we could help stop Global Warming by banning all carbonated drinks. No more coke, pepsi, slurrpies………. for the good of the planet – drink tap water (unless you live in an arid climate where the ground water is being depleted faster than it’s being replenished…..hmmm.
    Gosh, another unintended consequence of good intentions.

  77. Latimer– Stop with the straw men as to my position on waste. When did I or anyone else ever claim to buy food for the expressed purpose of wasting it? Setting a goal of zero waste increases the risk of shortages— the information feedback between production and consumption cannot be perfectly known– to promote zero waste will by necessity cause periods of insufficient supply.
    You state “I also submit that in countries where food shortages are a real and recurrent problem, the husbandry of what little food there is means that the percentage wasted is very close to zero.” Really? That is your idea of husbandry. In the old Soviet Union more than half of their food rotted in the fields because they did not focus on the problems with their transportation and storage infrastructure. Your correct that people wasted zero food– they ate everything including shoe leather. Its easy to have zero waste when you have zero food to waste. A good thing by your metric- your logic of focusing on the actions of the consumer–or one part of a complex system leads to perverse solutions.
    Let me get this straight– you admit not knowing the real “waste” number in UK nor how it was derived–other than what “feels right”- you don’t know where the bulk of waste in the Ag system occurs, you don’t know or feel compelled to understand what other methods may provide infinitely greater system efficiency- haven’t looked at the unintended consequences of your position—but still feel quite comfortable scolding others about their perceived actions.

  78. Latimer– You look at food waste and see a human failing while I see some food waste as a sign we are all being fed and am thankful.

  79. e. c. cowan says:
    “So we could help stop Global Warming by banning all carbonated drinks.”
    And I think it cuts down on flatulent methane as well!

  80. @Pat moffit
    ‘Latimer– You look at food waste and see a human failing while I see some food waste as a sign we are all being fed and am thankful’
    But if the food weren’t wasted, then more people could be properly fed.
    I am not at all surprised that there was a huge amount of food that went to waste in the soviet union..it was an incredibly inefficient and stupid economic system. But I doubt very much if what little filtered down to the baboushka with the just-in-case bag was wasted. It was too hard to come by to not get full value from it.
    There is absolutely no reason for us as private individuals to emulate the soviet state’s daft behaviour rather than the soviet peasant’s careful use of a valuable resource. You seem to be loudly advocating the former because the potato harvest failed for your great-great-great-great-great grandfather back in Sligo or Galway or wherever. BTW where did your other 127 forebears of that degree come from?
    And I’m guessing that you are of the opinion that I am some form of crazed green environmentalist. Far from it – as a study of my postings here and elsewhere will show you.

  81. Aldi says: October 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm
    Food is organic, if we don’t eat it, bacteria will. I don’t see the difference.

    The difference is that we don’t pay a lot of money and burn a lot of petroleum to ship the food around the world for bacteria. If a bushel of corn rots in the field, the bacteria eat it. If that bushel of corn is harvested/shipped/processed/shipped some more/refridgerated and THEN rots, we have ALSO burned a bunch of fuel and wasted that much more money and energy.
    Curiousgeorge says: October 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm
    The goal is to live as well as you can, for as long as you can. … every life form on the planet follows that same rule.

    Really? Then why do many plants and animals die shortly after reproducing? Surely they could have lived longer by skipping that whole reproduction thing! 😉 It seems that the rule of nature is more like “Help your genes (and your species in general) live as well as they can for as long as they can.”
    I am anxious to have a world that I can enjoy AND that my great-grandkids will enjoy. So I am willing to be a good steward of resources now so that there are still plenty of resources for them later.
    joe says: October 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm
    haha. those figures are laughable.

    Which figures? Without being more specific about what it is you find laughable, the rest of is don’t know how to comment. Is there some specific number you disagree with? Do you have evidence as to what the numbers should be?
    Tom in Florida says: October 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm
    Many posters speak of individual efforts to not waste food. Personally very good but that won’t stop production. You would have to limit food production in order to really save energy and that is not going to happen.

    Do you really think so? If consumers bought 20% less beef starting tomorrow becasue they were not throwing so much away, do you think that beef production would not decline almost immediately? Would ranchers truly produce cattle that they could not sell at a profit?
    Almost universially, demand drives supply (especially for processed/manufactured stuff), not the other way around.
    Pat Moffitt says: October 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm
    Whether food goes bad in my refrigerator or is unsold in the market it is pretty much the same from an energy standpoint.

    Very true. But as Guido LaMoto said a little earlier, “it’s about wasting petroleum, not food.” See my first comment above.
    I offer a plan (irradiation) that can reduce the amount of land needed by agriculture by 25 to 50% while also reducing the cost of food and improving health.
    Sounds like something that should definitely be pursued! I think this is a good idea too.
    Latimer– Stop with the straw men as to my position on waste. When did I or anyone else ever claim to buy food for the expressed purpose of wasting it? Setting a goal of zero waste increases the risk of shortages— the information feedback between production and consumption cannot be perfectly known– to promote zero waste will by necessity cause periods of insufficient supply.
    Pat, isnt “setting a goal of zero waste” also a strawman? I don’t recall anyone in the above discussions suggest that absolutely zero waste was the goal. It seems the goal is reducing wastes to more reasonable levels is the goal.

  82. Latimer Alder says:
    October 4, 2010 at 8:40 am
    @paul birch ‘Wasting food saves lives. If you don’t waste food, then, in a year of poor harvests, you starve. Producing more food than we can eat gives us a vital margin against disaster. Trying to eliminate “over-production” and “waste” would be foolish in the extreme’
    “Ummm… you’ll have to run that past me again. Your argument is that you grow more than you need, then wilfully let it rot. Because next time there’s a bad harvest you won’t have it to eat?? Surely some mistake here. To parpahrase an old proverb…..you cannot throw away your cake as waste and then come back to eat it. Its gone.
    How about..you gorw more than you need for now and carefully store it so that next time there;s a bad harvest, then you still have it to eat until the next good harvest comes around.”
    If you grow more food than you can use, then you have enough extra food that even with a poor harvest you will still have enough to eat. It is of course eminently sensible also to store supplies of food during the seven good years against the seven bad years. But doing so absolutely requires the over-production of food. And so long as the bad years do not come, this extra food is inevitably wasted. It is stored for a while – and then thrown away. It may be sensible to treat this stored food so that it lasts longer; but it will still be discarded in the end. It is also sensible to have the means to ensure that food can get from farm to table with minimal loss from vermin, mould, etc., but it is not necessarily efficient always to bother using those means when there is a food surplus (because those means have economic costs, of which the capital costs should be duly invested, but some of the running costs may usefully be avoided).

  83. TimF—
    Lets take things one step at a time. The posted paper claims that Americans waste 27% of its food citing Kantor, L. S.; Lipton, K. “Estimating and addressing America’s food losses” Food Rev. 1997, 20 ( 1) 2. Most posting here have erroneously assumed that this is the result of the actions of individual end use consumers. The 27% value is for commercial/institutions while a value of 6% (3 to 9%) was given for individuals.
    So what is included in these waste numbers? The study states that 50% of the end user “waste” is the disposal of cooking oils following food preparation. Is this really waste as it served its intended purpose and is not meant for direct consumption? And given the price and reuse of commercial grease I would argue this needs to be netted out. The only way to eliminate this waste is not to use cooking oils.
    The second largest factor may be uneaten food or what is termed plate loss— and many reasons for this including too large portions or not liking the food. Food Service institution are also confronted by correctly estimating the demand for the meals and if we allow choice more uncertainty ensues. Over preparation is necessary to prevent not having sufficient numbers of prepared prepared meals. Large number of meals also entails handling problems and government food safety requirements that demand some element of wasting. Again my continuing point there comes a point where decreasing “waste” results in no food.
    Now to the individual consumer the subject of most postings. Again cooking oils are a big part of the “waste” however the largest factor were fruits and vegetable spoiled upon home inspection and tossed. (ex those moldy strawberries you throw away once opening the package, that slightly brown outer leaves on the lettuce or those bad grapes you didn’t see when you bought them) Plate loss also counts as does spillage and spoilage in the refrigerator. Children markedly increase food loss for a variety of reasons. The foods most often wasted at home are fruits and vegetables as one would expect given that they are highly perishable (Meat is seldom thrown away)
    My reaction to this paper is the message is flawed if not disingenuous. Fully 50% of the waste in my opinion is not waste (cooking oils and greases), some waste is necessary in institutions to provide choice and most importantly sufficient number of meals. Spoilage happens with perishable foods and much waste occurs though no fault of the consumer being found upon home inspection. Once we remove cooking oils, spillage and spoilage found following purchase we may be dealing with at best 1 to 2 percent waste as consumer “fault”. And if we were able to buy irradiated products more often we wouldn’t be forced to throw food away. And I’m just not open to calling children’s action waste.
    So we are led to believe by this paper that we could save large energy expenditures if we just didn’t waste when in fact much of the waste is not waste- it is the necessary byproduct of feeding people. Could we do better? Probably but here is why I press on with this issue. If your intent is to promote agriculture energy efficiency- consumer waste is not where any discussion should start. Importantly such a focus distracts attention from the real issues.
    The environment remains a problem because we propose ineffectual feel good solutions that prevent the understanding necessary to properly manage our resources. The problem is compounded by the ideological framing of the problem that eliminates certain solutions as unacceptable such as irradiation and GM. It is a system that glorifies a Paul Erlich but Norman Borlaug -whose work for the first time in the world’s history ended famine as a necessary human condition.
    If you want to save ag energy:
    – grow more food on less land (GM crops)
    -irradiate the food supply freeing up massive acreage for wild or other productive uses (Agriculture is the number 1 cause of species loss) while also benefiting from a significant health protection from food born disease
    -irradiate food and lose less in transport and storage. (Up to 50% of current production) Irradiate food and the consumer would need to throw away less spoiled food as irradiated food remains edible for six times longer than non-irradiated items.
    -Stop wasting corn by turning it into a fuel source that consumes more energy than it creates and raises the cost of food to the poor.
    – Stop subsidizing crops we have no intention of ever eating
    Once we deal with these issue I’m open to a slap on the wrist for the unwise disposal of some errant brocolli spear. But till then promoting a vision that consumers by changing their habits can have an meaningful impact on the agriculture energy budget is just going to tick me off. As I said earlier if you don’t consider fixing the hole in the dam – I begin to wonder why you’re so damned concerned with how long my shower took. (a collective strawman argument- you’re not meant personally)

  84. @pat moffit
    Your generous apology of course accepted. I don’t believe that we are far apart..just coming at the same problem from different angles. Cheers.

  85. @curiousgeorge
    ‘The goal is to live as well as you can, for as long as you can. … every life form on the planet follows that same rule’
    As TimF has pointed out, that is a serious misstatement of the position for many many lifeforms.
    Suggested reading: ‘The Selfish Gene’ – by Richard Dawkins. This was (I believe) his first major work, and explains a lot about the behaviour of lifeforms. Without getting into the militant atheism that he has more recently espoused. A seminal book.
    (And no I don’t want to get sunk into a discussion of religion on this thread…it ain’t about that).

  86. Simple Leftovers Trick:
    I have 8 ‘bowls’ with lids (ceramic, Corningware I think, with a small handle on the side). Leftovers get arranged in the bowls that go into the freezer. Instant “TV Dinners” for those times when in a hurry or just not feeling like cooking. Used for lunches, too.
    Works well for pasta, meats, cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes. Some rice dishes (spanish rice, rice with oils or sauces in it) but not plain white rice (gets dry and mealy).
    One of my favorites is lasagna w / green beans. The giant lasagna gets neatly divided into bowls of just the right size. No more ‘4th day in a row’ of lasagna leftovers…

  87. A large part of the energy cost in growing food is in fertilizer production. Most of the food that isn’t wasted or waisted, ends up in human waste. That human waste is a rich resource that should be composted or otherwise processed for use as fertilizer saving energy and restoring the micro-nutrient content of our soils. New technologies for processing human waste at the point of production, perhaps using solar energy or radiation for sterilization, or technologies for exploiting the heat created by composting would help.

  88. Latimer-
    Think of my position as the Pareto Principle (Principle of Factor Sparsity or Law of the Vital Few) where 80% of an effect is the result of 20% of the causes. If we want to be as efficient as possible in changing some effect then we should choose initially from the subset of factors that causes the majority of the effect (the 20%). By not doing so we waste resources – public attention and problem understanding- being two of the more important.

  89. That’s a good analysis. But in my own opinion it isn’t just the consumers alone that are wasting food, the producers as well. Some food products are out in the market that are way beyond the demand of the people. Isn’t that too much waste of energy too?
    Online Parenting Class

  90. Dear Moderators,
    Isn’t that last comment just marketing spam? Commenter name linked to same URL found in comment, with some fluff words added. “Thread looks dead, then spam ahead.” This is more of that pattern.
    At least the alternate energy “comments” were something like related to the topic with a relevant URL. But parenting classes? That’s not even trying.

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