The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.
And if we could actually reduce this staggering quantity of food waste, the price of food worldwide might go down, according to a report from researchers at USDA's Economic Research Service, Jean Buzby, Hodan Wells and Jeffrey Hyman.
To come up with these estimates of all the food that was harvested but never eaten, the teamcrunched the latest available data from 2010. This "lost" food encompasses all of the edible food available for consumption — including food that spoils or gets contaminated by mold or pests. It also includes the food that's "wasted" — i.e. food discarded by retailers because it's blemished, and the food left on our plates.
All told, 133 billion pounds of food was lost in 2010 — that's 31 percent of the total food supply. And it was worth about $161.6 billion.
Of course, we are likely to waste some foods more than others. According to USDA, the top three food groups lost in 2010 were dairy products (25 billion pounds, or 19 percent of all the lost food); vegetables (25 billion pounds, or 19 percent); and grain products (18.5 billion pounds, or 14 percent).
On the upside, the USDA food economists report that there's a growing interest in the food waste problem, and they offer three reasons why.
Written By: Eliza Barclay
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