Written by Dana Gunders, the report's source data appears to rely on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. According to the FAO, 20% of fruits and vegetables produced in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia are lost at the production level, 3% in post-harvest handling and storage, 1% in process and packaging, 12% at retail and a whopping 28% at the consumer level. That's hardly leaves anything left for the fruit bowl, it seems.
The USDA report cited earlier is also grim on the subject of produce waste, citing 68% in total losses at all levels for fresh oranges, 94% for cantaloupe and a relatively respectable 39% for fresh apples.
What's the solution? Here are some ideas from the report on how cut waste at the farm level:
- A farmer who saw that 70 percent of his carrots were going to waste because of irregular shape or size decided to sell “baby carrots.” After cutting the irregular carrots small, he was able to sell them for $.50 per pound compared with $.17 per pound for regular-sized carrots.
- Farmer’s markets, which have more than doubled in number in the past 10 years, are allowing growers to sell good-quality products that might not meet size, shelf life, or other criteria
imposed by retailers.
- California recently passed a bill allowing growers to receive a tax credit for donations of excess produce to state food banks, joining Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado.
This NRDC report strikes the "we can do better" tone with several suggestions, from the release:
The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction. This may require steps such as clarifying date labels on food, encouraging food recovery, and improving public awareness about ways to waste less. State and local governments can also lead by setting similar targets.
Businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money. The Stop and Shop grocery chain is already doing this successfully, saving an estimated $100 million annually after an analysis of freshness, loss, and customer satisfaction in their perishables department. Others should follow suit.
Consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers.