Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study says nation wastes nearly half its food

23.11.2004


As they sit down to their Thanksgiving Day dinner, many Americans will marvel at the cornucopia of food at their table. What many don’t think about is how much food is wasted, not just on Thursday, but every day, from the beginning of the harvest to the scraps tossed into the garbage. Mounting new evidence, in fact, shows just how wasteful the nation is with its bounty.



America has been long been the poster child for the "throw-away society" and researchers have known for years about the volumes of food Americans toss into the trash. Only recently, though, has that been quantified as a percentage of what is produced. A new study from the University of Arizona in Tucson indicates that forty to fifty percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten.

Timothy W. Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, has spent the last 10 years measuring food loss, including the last eight under a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Jones started in the farms and orchards, went on through the warehouses, retail outlets and dining rooms, and to landfills. What he found was that not only is edible food discarded that could feed people who need it, but the rate of loss, even partially corrected, could save U.S. consumers and corporations tens of billions of dollars each year. Jones says these losses also can be framed in terms of environmental degradation and national security.


Jones’ research evolved from and builds on earlier work done at the University of Arizona. Archaeologists there began measuring garbage in the 1970s to see what was being thrown away and discovered that people were not fully aware of what they were using and discarding. Those earlier studies evolved into more sophisticated research using contemporary archaeology and ethnography to understand not only the path food travels from farms and orchards to landfills, but also the culture and psychology behind the process. A certain amount of waste in the food stream simply can’t be helped. Little can be done, for instance, about weather and crop deterioration. The apple industry, for instance, loses on average about 12 percent of its crop on the way to market. Apples in the U.S. are harvested over a two-month period and then stored and sold year-round. People in the apple business use aggressive methods to maintain their crop, with fresh apples hitting the supermarkets on a regular basis and marginal ones sent to be made into applesauce and other products.

The goal of apple growers is to provide a nutritious product, all year long, at fairly constant prices. Jones says they’ve adopted a conservative business plan that forgoes the boom-and-bust cycles that other fruit and vegetable growers aim for and opts instead for a steady income stream. Fresh fruit and vegetable growers, in contrast, often behave like riverboat gamblers. They will roam their fields while on their cell phones to the commodity markets in Chicago, play the odds and even dance a jig or flip a coin if they think it will help them make a financial killing. A bad bet often means an entire crop is left in the field to be plowed under.

Jones’ research also shows that by measuring how much food is actually being brought into households, a clearer picture of that end of the food stream is beginning to emerge. On average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened. Jones estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products.

Jones says there are three simple ways most people can significantly reduce their own food waste. One is careful purchase planning: devise menus and make up grocery lists accordingly. Another is knowing what lurks in the refrigerator and pantry that needs to be used while it is still useable. And understand that many kinds of food can be refrigerated or frozen and eaten later. Nationwide, he says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem. (In addition to farms and households, Jones also is currently researching retail food waste, again a sector where annual losses run in the tens of billions of dollars.)

Cutting food waste would also go a long way toward reducing serious environmental problems. Jones estimates that reducing food waste by half could reduce adverse environmental impacts by 25 percent through reduced landfill use, soil depletion and applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

Timothy W. Jones, Ph.D. | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht First form of therapy for childhood dementia CLN2 developed
25.04.2018 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

nachricht Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Getting electrons to move in a semiconductor

25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Reconstructing what makes us tick

25.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Cheap 3-D printer can produce self-folding materials

25.04.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>