U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year


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
continue to source article at npr.org


      • In reply to #2 by bigJ:

        In reply to #1 by NearlyNakedApe:

        Those are nectarines?? They look like apples to me.

        Then look closer! They are nectarines!

        More sinisterly they look a lot like the severed bottoms of a large number of very small people with colourful birth marks.

        On the serious side I can well believe this, I waste far too much food myself and need to do something about it. I can’t help wondering what a massive obesity problem there would be if all this food was eaten by Americans too. Do we have an expert on this site who could give us an idea how this surplus could help deal with world hunger, or how I could make a positive contribution with my wasted food?

      • In reply to #2 by bigJ:

        In reply to #1 by NearlyNakedApe:

        Those are nectarines?? They look like apples to me.

        Then look closer! They are nectarines!

        I didn’t say they weren’t nectarines… All I said was that they LOOK like apples. I’m a big fruit consumer myself and I’m very picky about what I buy. I know the provenance and the season of every fruit I buy.

        Most of the nectarines in the markets where I live (Quebec) come from Niagara Falls, Ontario (in season). Some are imported from California (out of season). They’re basically peaches without the fuzzy skin. But even though the skin of nectarines is smooth, it has a matte or satin like kind of finish. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) look shiny like the skin of the fruit in the picture.

        • In reply to #9 by NearlyNakedApe:

          In reply to #2 by bigJ:

          In reply to #1 by NearlyNakedApe:

          Those are nectarines?? They look like apples to me.

          Then look closer! They are nectarines!

          I didn’t say they weren’t nectarines… All I said was that they LOOK like apples. I’m a big fruit consumer myself and I’m very picky about what I…

          The probably spray them with wax and other preservatives in order to prevent them from decomposing 😀

  1. Just walk around your neighbourhood in the summer and look at the amount of calories dropping of the fruit trees in the parks and along the laneways; that must add up as well. I see people buying blackberries at the market down the street from my home while across the street from the market are about 7 or 8 blackberry trees in full fruit; i should sell them at half price. The road to our daycare is lined with raspberries. No one touches them, except people over 70.

  2. For example, when we have to take food waste to a landfill, we either have to incinerate it or leave it to decompose, which both create their own greenhouse gas emissions.

    Ok, I’ll eat it then. When I digest and metabolise food I don’t produce any greenhouse gases. No sir, no methane farts or exhaled CO2 from me!

  3. To Aquilacane, COMMENT 4: Blackberries don’t grow on trees. Mulberries do, and it’s true that the berries look alike to the untrained eye. With your Italian handle you should know that the word for “blackberry” is mora and what you are seeing in the park is mora di gelso,–mulberry– gelso being the word for a mulberry tree.

  4. I’m very annoyed by the fact that the size of food packages seem to grow almost exponentially. This might be a good thing for large household, but for me it’s a source of constant irritation. I can’t possibly eat 20 buns or drink a gallon of milk before it goes bad. As a result, most of the time I have to throw away half of the food I buy.

    But, this is how capitalism works. The economy has to grow on a constant basis. Hence, we have to buy more goods. Whether we actually need all the things we buy or not is irrelevant. I think most people in the western world don’t really realize how lucky we are. I visited a design museum a few months ago, and there were these really beautiful dresses from the 18th century which usually took years to make. Just imagine how much more you would appreciate such a piece of clothing than something you buy for a few bucks and throw away after washing it a few times. The modern human being is really disconnected from nature. I think the old native American cultures are good role models in this regard. When they killed an animal they really used every part of it. They would not let anything go to waste.

  5. I’m from the bubble and squeak generation. Nothing went to waste and I maintain that rule.

    I had the benefits of my upbringing brought home to me when I was living with the family of a friend who’s a Jew; his dad used to say that when you’ve been kicked out of almost every country in the world at some time you learn to preserve the essentials, one of which is the cuisine.

    My friend’s mum could produce a nutritious tasty meal from next to nothing, and one evening I rang her to say that I’d just had an Indian meal and she wasn’t to cook anything for me when I got in, but she insisted I eat before going to bed.

    I’m a goy boy, so what do I know?

    However, I’ve found it next to impossible to get our daughters to stop throwing away food just because it’s past its use by date; I tell them that if it smells alright and looks okay it’s edible.

    I usually end up eating it myself though.

    Given the degree of starvation and malnutrition that exists in the World, I simply cannot abide the unnecessary throwing away of food, and one of the most banal arguments I know of is that no one in a developing country can eat it, so what’s to be gained by not throwing it away?

    Somehow kind of misses the point I think!

  6. @10 Nunb. – the modern human being is really out of touch with nature

    Richard Louv, who wrote a “today’s kids have ‘nature deficit disorder'” book, now has a follow up – ‘NDD’ in adults. He (and you) are right on the money, as unfortunate as this is. Who, besides me, has noticed a severe reduction of migrating monarch butterflies (rhetorical)?

    Also, a man who lived in rural Africa for a while, vividly recounted what a culture shock it was to visit an american super grocer. Stunned and sickened, he was. So much food (tailored to within an inch of its life for consumer’s tastes), bright lights, crap music. Stop! Personally, I find it disconcerting to see men on cellphones clarifying the exact item, as opposed to what some of their ancient ancestors did, i.e. stalk, aim, kill, ready the animal for eating and other uses.

    @12 SG – past its use by date

    Can’t think of the term – when a human brain latches on to the fly only, no matter how much honey.

    tangerine – Jelly’s last jam – dreams

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