Skin-deep Waste II

img_0837.JPGYesterday we talked about how the desire for flawless produce leads to much waste. Pushing the issue further, who’s to blame for this desire?

While Wayne Roberts’ article impugned food magazines, I’d also blame most supermarkets, especially Whole Foods. Most retailers make a point of having bountiful, beautiful displays. Doing so means throwing out imperfect, nonuniform produce.

As Whole Foods’ Web site states, some produce doesn’t make it onto its sales floor:

Our buyers around the country are very discerning about what they purchase, scouring the land for the very best products and sometimes turning away shipments at the door that are undersized or lacking in flavor.

img_0831.JPGOf the produce that is stocked, employees pull an abundance of slightly imperfect produce from the sales floor. Whole Foods’ site refers to “rapid inventory turns,” which means plenty of culling in addition to selling. In the best cases, as in these pictures, the culled items are donated to food recovery groups. Yet, these non-profits are not as widespread as Whole Foods’ stores.

In “Food Porn,” a Forbes article on Whole Foods’ tempting of shoppers, Whole Foods’ co-President Walter Robb describes the stores’ layout: 

“It’s a very visual style,” says Walter Robb, co-president, who runs the western half of the U.S. “More than half of shopping decisions are made on impulse. When you shop, we engage your senses. We want to romance the food.”

The quest for perfect produce doesn’t just come from grocery stores. There is a chain of culpability that explains crops of a certain shape, size and appearance. Farmers are reacting to wholesalers who are reacting to supermarket buyers who are reacting to your perceived demands. Did you know you, the consumer, held so much power? Use it wisely.  

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