The Weekly Waste Word: Bagged Produce

As you might have guessed, I’m not a big fan of washed and cut produce. Sure, it’s convenient and has its uses, but for the most part it breaks down quicker than the uncut version because it exposes more of the fruit or vegetable to oxidation. It also further removes us from the idea that produce is grown and don’t just magically appear on your grocer’s shelves as broccoli florets. But I digress.

bags-in-dumpster-2.jpgBack to the topic of decomposition, precut vegetables will last a decent amount of time as long as their bag hasn’t been opened. The reason: the bags are often filled with nitrogen to minimize air (with its 20 percent oxygen), delaying spoilage. The industry calls this M.A.P., or Modified Atmosphere Packaging. Who knew your bag of romaine had its own atmosphere?

M.A.P. is great if you’re using all of the bag’s contents at once. If you’re not, the cut produce doesn’t store well after being opened. And sealed or unsealed, cut produce won’t last as long as uncut.  

The word: if you’re going to buy precut produce, try to buy a reasonably-sized bag you’ll use in one or two servings.  

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3 Comments

  1. Jim N
    Posted October 2, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. That explains it.

    Also, some greens last longer than others. Like, spinach, kale, and broccoli will way outlast a head of softer leafy lettuce like romaine.

    I figure one advantage of the bagged stuff is that there’s little waste. Does the factory does something with the stuff that does not go into the bags? I would guess so.

  2. Jonathan
    Posted October 3, 2007 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jim.
    From what I know, the grower-shippers are not that great with the extra greens that don’t make the cut. I’ve seen waves of lettuce and spinach sent to the landfill in “America’s Salad Bowl” of Salinas, Calif.

    The crops that don’t make the grade from the fields are plowed under, fertilizing the soil a bit. But I haven’t heard of anyone composting green waste. Also, there’s the sad phenomneon of factory miscues like miscut bags or product that won’t reach the market before its sell-by date that are thrown away.

    Also, some products have more of a secondary market. I would imagine canned spinach (Popeye’s favorite) comes from the stuff that doesn’t make the cut. But I can’t imagine a secondary product for lettuce.

  3. Posted October 7, 2007 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    That M.A.P. thing is crazy. I had no idea. I’m not really buying things in plastic bags right now anyway, but it’s still really interesting. Thanks!

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