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 The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>