5 Unsavory Food Waste Myths

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Did you know that 40 percent of food is wasted from farm to fork to landfill in the United States? Sadly, this has huge social and environmental consequences.

Transporting food “from farm to fork” uses 10 percent of the total energy budget of the U.S., 50 percent of U.S. land, and a staggering 80 percent of our freshwater. We are throwing out $165 billion in food waste, while 1 in every 6 Americans lacks food security. Unfortunately, food waste winds up in landfills, where it rots and emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Although the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has helped raise awareness of this issue in the past few years, many widely held myths prevail that allow the problem to continue. Here are five offenders of food waste myths.

Myth 1: I don’t waste food; it is everyone else who does

Although 63 percent of U.S. grocery shoppers express concern for the amount of food wasted in the U.S., a mere 34 percent demonstrate concern about the quantity of food wasted in their own homes, according to a 2014 study. This disconnect discourages action at home, where most Americans have the greatest ability to decrease food waste.

Myth 2: Use by/sell by dates are cast in stone

According to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, confusion over dates causes nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food, resulting in the waste of hundreds of dollars of food each year per household.

The NRDC states:

“All those dates on food products — sell by, use by, best before — almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe.”

Because these dates sound so official, many people won’t consume food after such dates have passed. Instead of using arbitrary dates, use your best judgment to determine if food is fresh enough to eat by examining it and smelling it. It always help to store it properly before use.

Myth 3: We need to grow more food to end world hunger

Globally, enough food is produced to feed everyone. Food insecurity largely arises from a lack of resources to purchase or grow a sufficient amount. Creating better safety nets for low-income families is an effective way to respond to the issue, especially when food that would otherwise be wasted can be provided to people in need. Instead of attempting to solve world hunger by increasing production yields, proper food storage and distribution is essential, combined with economic opportunities.

Food in fridge

Image courtesy of Katrin Gilger.

Myth 4: Irregular produce is bad

In the U.S., there is a very high aesthetic standard for fruits and veggies in grocery stores, and many items don’t make the cut. Perfectly edible produce is often wasted because of little blemishes or abnormalities. Farmers markets, however, provide an opportunity to reduce this food waste, by selling irregular produce at a discount.

The Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign embraces these imperfections in produce, working to shift our cultural view on the importance of uniform produce. This organization seeks to reduce the 26 percent of all produce that never even makes it to grocery store shelves.

Myth 5: Feeding food scraps to animals is dangerous

Think of the birds next time you have a stale loaf of bread or of your dog if you cooked too much brown rice for dinner. Likewise, cats, backyard chickens, squirrels and other animals can safely eat many of the foods that we otherwise throw out.

Many human foods are safe and healthy to feed to dogs, especially if you think they will otherwise spoil. Lean meats, brown rice, veggies, whole-grain bread, most fruit and peanut butter are all safe, but avoid milk, excessively salty food, chocolate, animal bones (because they can splinter), onions and garlic.

Were you surprised by any of these food waste myths? Guilty of believing in one or more? What ways do you successfully combat food waste? Share your thoughts with us below. 

Feature image courtesy of Kai Lehmann

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Sarah Lozanova
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Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is a renewable energy and sustainability journalist and communications professional with an MBA in sustainable management. She is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Earth911, Home Power, Triple Pundit, CleanTechnica, The Ecologist, GreenBiz, Renewable Energy World and Windpower Engineering. Lozanova also works with several corporate clients as a public relations writer to gain visibility for renewable energy and sustainability achievements.
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