And a lot of wasted food could be going to feed people who need it, points out NPR’s The Salt blog in its coverage of the repot.
Researchers at the USDA’s Economic Research Service reached that hefty number by crunching the numbers from 2010, the most recent year with data available. Any edible food that’s available for consumption was included, stuff that’s spoiled, thrown out by retailers for blemishes or deemed unworthy, and whatever food you leave on the plate (or forget in your doggy bag left in the back of a cab, sigh).
A total of 133 billion pounds of food was lost in 2010, or to put it another way, 31% of the total food supply, worth about $161.6 billion.
What are we wasting the most? Surely there aren’t large number of Kobe beef steaks sitting in Dumpsters. We’re most likely to waste dairy products, vegetables and grain products, say USDA researchers.
“So what if I don’t finish my burrito? Why should I care?” a hypothetical version of an uncaring person might say. But you should care, say researchers — not only are we losing food, there’s money going into the trash along with nonrenewable resources like fuel and water.
And when you dump food at a landfill or let it decompose, it emits greenhouse gases which are harmful to the planet. Not to mention all the empty stomachs at home and around the world that would welcome a good meal.
These reasons could give us a collective kick in the pants to cut down on food waste, and it’s up to us, say researchers: “Economic incentives and consumer behavior will be paramount in reducing food loss.”
Even better? Your grocery bills could get smaller, maybe.
“If food loss is prevented or reduced to the extent that less food is needed to feed people (i.e., the demand for food decreases), then this would likely reduce food prices in the United States and the rest of the world.”
The Clean Plate Club, everybody. Remember: Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach.