A Brief issued by the National Resources Defense Council NRDC) tells the story of food waste that happens before it even gets off the farm.
Left-Out: An Investigation of Fruit and Vegetable Losses on the Farm presents results of a survey commissioned by NRDC in July 2012 to gain a better sense of the volume of fruits and vegetables lost and — more importantly — why.
The following are prominent reasons food goes to waste before getting to market:
- Variable market prices
- Labor shortages
- Imperfect product (cosmetic and quality variances in size, shape, color, blemishes and ripeness)
- Anticipatory packing (order volumes are not as large as forecast leaving extra packed product at the end of the day which must be disposed of by the following day.
- Shelf-life and spoilage
What Is the Impact of Farm Spoilage? Plenty.
Consider broccoli. If just 5 percent of U.S. broccoli production is not harvested, over 90 million pounds of broccoli are going uneaten. That’s way too many kids who won’t ever get their chance to turn a nose up at this vitamin-rich vegetables.
- Both federal and state agencies should include loss questions as part of existing surveys.
- Like California, state governments can offer tax credits to farmers who donate excess produce.
- Public purchasing dollars can be used to expand secondary markets for excess produce, including through distribution in schools or other public facilities.
- The government can help growers and farm workers deal with labor shortages.
- Large and small businesses can be more flexible in their food procurement.
- Companies can grapple with logistical challenges by donate space in their trucks.
- Consumers can e more tolerant of how produce looks on grocery shelves. In other words, “Buy funny fruit.”
NRDC estimates that 40% of the U.S. food supply is never eaten. Data related to how much food is lost on farms is scarce, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO) estimates that 20 percent of the fruit and vegetable supply is lot during production.
However it adds up, now’s the time to cut our losses.