Fueling Food: Irony & Opportunity

Connecting many dots of previous discussions here, just this month Oregon passed model legislation allowing bycatch – which in Oregon is most often salmon (a sad loss in any amount, but especially as an average 8% is wasted across the industry) – to be processed for food bank use, a win-win for diverting a present waste stream while making a much needed source of healthy protein available.

Efforts like these are beginning to draw attention to this significant topic, as acknowledged in a fascinating McKinsey & Company study released late last year. Resource Revolution points to food waste as the third highest of fifteen areas in regards to opportunities for savings, both in resources and financial benefits – an estimated $252 total and $90 billion in reduced consumer food waste alone, which uses “8 times more energy than post-harvest waste” (Resource Revolution, p. 72). Exploring the different situational challenges in developing and industrialized countries, the main barriers regardless are summarized as capital intensity, supply-chain bottlenecks, and entrenched behaviors. Catalyzing change via pairing technology and research – whether being used to measure, track or improve food waste – is the key next direction the study targets.

Such research is being undertaken in beginning stages, such as FAO’s Global food losses and food waste 2011 study. Its results lead to illuminating, confirming data:

  • “Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.” ~ Cutting food waste to feed the world

The irony of this latter statistic, with vegetables being “the most commonly wasted food in U.S. homes, making up some 25% of avoidable waste” (Leftovers: Tasty or Trash?), is stunning when we consider how we’re wasting most what we need to be eating more of:



3 responses

  1. It is fascinating that Americans waste so many fruits and vegetables. I wonder if they are purchased with the intent to cook and then just left to rot in the fridge? Is it a lack of knowledge of how to cook? How do we get folks to eat the vegetables they are purchasing? If U.S. farmers grow more fruits and veggies and we’re not eating them, then what will be the use?

  2. Jen brings up a good point, ” what are they purchasing the fruits and vegetable for if they are not cooking them, or eating them raw.” Working at a Farmers market for years, I do know that their is good intention to eat them, but I think they get lost in the madness of the overly stuffed fridges and/or they do not have the time or energy to prepare them and make them a part of every meal. A cookbook for our busy lifestyles on how to get your fruits and vegetables is in order!

  3. Great find on the McKinsey study! In the face of abundance, we often undervalue our resources. It is so important to remember that with soil depletion and rising population these are in fact limited resources.

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