Study finds consumers, retailers waste about half the produce grown in the U.S.


(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 15, 2016

New research suggests that as much as half of the food produce in the United States is wasted.

“demand for unattainable perfection” in the appearance of fruits and vegetables is largely to blame for the vast amount of wasted food. Fruits and vegetables are often led in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or shipped directly to landfills when deemed unsellable because of cosmetic imperfections. According to government data, about 60 million tons of produce, worth about $160 billion, is wasted by American retailers and consumers annually. Globally, about 1.6 billion tons, valued at about $1 trillion, is wasted each year.

Despite these findings, researchers recognize that there is currently no clear way to account for food loss in U.S. However, the World Resources Institute and other thinktanks are developing methods to more accurately account for food waste. Wasteful food production practices are detrimental to efforts to fight global hunger and climate change.

Last year U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack called for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. However, one expert argues that Vilsack’s goal could have a negative effect on food economics. Roger Gordon – founder of the Food Cowboy – told The Guardian that a 50 percent reduction in food waste could reduce the profit margin of produce at grocery stores by half. He added that fresh produce accounts for about 15 percent of supermarket profits.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Iowa Waste Reduction Center was established in 1988 with the intention of helping businesses reduce food waste in the Hawkeye State. In 2013, the center released a report entitled “Iowa Food Waste Reduction Program Market Analysis.”

On the Radio: New app helps find sustainable groceries


Items from a typical produce aisle ( katiescrapbooklady / Flickr)
Items from a typical produce aisle ( katiescrapbooklady / Flickr)
December 22, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new app that looks to help consumers identify healthy and sustainable foods in the grocery aisle. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

A new mobile app aims to help consumers find the healthiest and most sustainably-grown foods at the grocery store.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In October, the Environmental Working Group – a non-profit that advocates for environmental and public health issues – launched “Food Scores,” a food ratings database and mobile app. The database has rated more than 80,000 products using three criteria: nutrition such as caloric and fat content, ingredient concerns like hormones and antibiotics, and processing which includes the amount of artificial ingredients a product contains.

With the most emphasis placed on the food’s nutritional content and the least on processing, the app compiles these factors, then gives each product a rating between 1 and 10, with 1 being the healthiest and 10 the least nutritional foods.

The Environmental Working Group is headquartered in Washington D.C. and has a regional office in Ames, Iowa.

For more information about the mobile app and a link to the database, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerrry Schnoor.

sources: http://iowapublicradio.org/post/apps-aim-guide-you-sustainable-food-whatever-means; http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/user-guide