Americans waste about twenty-five percent of the food that they prepare. That food then has to be trucked away to a landfill where it decomposes and releases large amounts of methane gas. That twenty-five percent on average equates to about one and half pounds of food per a person per a day. Just over the fall holidays over five million pounds of food find their way to the landfills.
There are a lot reasons for such a high amount of food waste. Expiration dates may be in part to blame because many people take them as an absolute end by date. Experts recommend relying more on the smell test of items that don’t have to be refrigerated as they can be good to eat even after the date on the packaging. They may taste a little differently, but they’re still nutritionally sound. A lack of adequate storage for these foods may also play a part in their disposal and spoilage.
A large amount of the wasted food that makes it way to landfills comes from restaurants where people leave meals unfinished. The customer has already paid for the food, so the restaurant has no incentive to try to salvage it. In fact, in many areas it might actually violate a health code for the restaurant to give the food away. It’s a hassle for them to try to compost it, so it goes to the landfill instead.
Grocers are a just as inflexible with their excess. Many food pantries will take fresh produce that is about to expire and they will redistribute it to those in need, after they rescue from the dumpster behind the grocery store. They are just as guilty as consumers though about getting rid of perfectly good food because an expiration date is approaching.
Some places like bread stores will actually sell the items that are about to expire for a discounted rate. More than a few farmers pick up truckloads of expired bread to feed to their animals at minimal cost. The bread found in these truck loads is generally not even stale and perfectly safe for human consumption. The bread can make a considerably cheaper form of feed for animals like chickens and fish. The bread is also a good treat for larger animals like goats.
The largest amount of food waste occurs on the farm. There are circumstances where it can literally cost a farmer more to harvest a crop than to till it under. Other items are left in the fields simply because they don’t look nice enough to sell. There is nothing wrong with the fruit or vegetable, it just doesn’t look perfect like Americans like them to.
Food prices still account for less than ten percent of the average person’s budget in the United States. People don’t tend to care about things they don’t pay a lot for, so the amount of food that is wasted isn’t likely to change until food prices start to rise significantly. Unfortunately, wasting food is apparently just a sign of prosperity.