In a world that wastes one-third of its food each year, how is it that hunger is still one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide? Apparently, according to an article in Foreign Policy, how food gets wasted depends on where you live.
In developing countries, consumers tend to not waste much food because food consumes a much larger portion of personal income. Much of the waste comes from the production side where
“crops are inefficiently farmed with outdated tools, and often harvested early because farmers are under economic and climactic duress. To get meat, fruits, vegetables and fish to market in the developing world often means navigating lousy roads, using warehouses without proper refrigeration, facing greater vulnerability to pests, and any number of other factors that drive up spoilage and losses.”
In developed countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., where we are able to produce and transport more than enough food, waste tends to come from the consumer end. An upper estimate on the yearly amount of food waste in the U.S. is $165 Billion. $10-15 Billion of that is simply from damaged or close to sell-by date items from grocery stores. Also, a large proportion of waste in the U.S. is simply discarded because of aesthetic qualities. The article references a carrot farm where
“25-30 percent of all carrots produced were either discarded or used as animal feed because of aesthetic defects.”
Solutions for waste in the developing world would necessitate improvements in infrastructure and food preservation. In the developed world, making use of what would otherwise be wasted food could be a new profitable business model. For example, a former president of Trader Joe’s has plans to launch a chain of stores selling prepared food made exclusively with past-sell-by-date products.