How much produce is tossed because it’s not pretty enough?

Nobody’s perfect. So why do we expect our fruit to be?

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” So why do we do it when it comes to food?

Have you ever noticed how nearly all the fruits and veggies you see in most grocery stores look kinda … perfect? It turns out that not all produce grows into perfect, uniformly shaped foodstuffs. In fact, a good chunk of produce might be considered downright ugly.

But you know what’s truly ugly? The huge amount of food that gets thrown out simply because grocery stores don’t think it looks good enough for us to buy…

Think about it: 30% to 40% of food is wasted (depending on whether you look at post-farmed or pre-farmed). One tomato packing house can fill dump trucks with 22,000 pounds of rejected tomatoes every 40 minutes. And a citrus-packer estimates that as much as 50% of the produce they handle is unmarketable but totally edible.

Estimates show that 1 in 7 Americans do not have reliable access to nutritious, affordable food…

Let’s be real. When it comes to nutrition, looks don’t really matter — it’s what’s on the inside that counts…

This concept is far from new. In 2013, a supermarket’s Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign in France proved so successful that the availability of uglies for purchase quickly shot up throughout Europe.

Even before the Inglorious campaign I was part of earlier efforts to defeat marketing standards in Europe that made it illegal to distribute and sell unattractive fruit and veggies. Lobbyists from the largest supermarket chains worked with agribusiness growers who could afford to spoil and waste half of what they produced to offer only the “perfect” plum, the sexiest squash.

And the EU made anything else – not allowed.

Inglorious kicked things over the edge and made the difference. Let’s hope we can have as much success with campaigns like @uglyfruitsand veg.

6 thoughts on “How much produce is tossed because it’s not pretty enough?

  1. McDonald says:

    “Proposed Law Would Cut Back on Food Waste From Farm to Fridge” On Dec. 7, 2015, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, introduced a comprehensive bill to prevent and recover food waste from farm to fridge. The Food Recovery Act, if signed into law, would incentivize farmers to donate unsellable fruits and vegetables to food donation centers through tax breaks and educate the public to help people better understand sell-by labels and other expiration dates. Through four key areas—at the consumer level, on farms, in restaurants, and in schools and institutions—the bill would work to improve incentives for donation through Good Samaritan tax breaks, improve education on food waste through ad campaigns, and reform procurement policies.

  2. Keep it UP! says:

    “Walmart has a smart new ploy to reduce rampant food waste: Selling ugly produce” (7/23/16) “That Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is involved in the effort to curb food waste means that the changes it enforces will have an outsized impact along supply chains and put pressure on competitors. “We’re focused on making sure that customers are getting it at a value,” a Walmart spokesman said. “With suppliers, we’re talking about how do we get 100% of the harvest.”
    Since it began tackling food waste within its own system in 2013, the retailer says it has diverted 82% of food that would have otherwise gone to landfills. That amounts to about 2 billion meals. According to ReFED, a food waste advocacy group, a 20% reduction in waste would reclaim the 1,250 calories per capita that goes into landfills each year. That’s enough to feed America’s food-insecure population three times over.

  3. Old McDonald says:

    (8/1/16) Quebec minister of agriculture Pierre Paradis recently made a big announcement: So-called “ugly fruit”—the misshapen fruits and veggies that normally wouldn’t pass muster—can now be sold in grocery stores across the province. Perfectly shaped apples and potatoes will share shelf space with double-pronged carrots, misshapen pears, crooked cucumbers and hideously disfigured eggplants.
    This is an important move to reduce food waste, one that’s already been embraced by major chains like Walmart, Whole Foods and Loblaws. Both have said that more ugly produce will be popping up on their store shelves. According to Paradis’ announcement, a 2010 study found that almost 10 percent of fruits and veggies are discarded in the field, just because they’re ugly, so this could go a long way to helping reduce food waste. At least, that’s the impetus behind it. (see links)

  4. Mayordomo says:

    Every year about 2.9 trillion pounds of food—about a third of all that the world produces—never gets consumed, often because of its looks. That’s enough to feed two billion people. In the U.S. around six billion pounds of domestically produced fruits and vegetables go unharvested or unsold, often for aesthetic reasons. “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger” National Geographic, March 2016

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