Built-in Waste

Tuesday I linked to an article on the massive food waste in Britain. Buried deep within that piece was a fascinating quote that warrants discussion:

Tim Lang, food policy professor at City University, said: “Waste is a fundamental part of the food economy and it will be hard to get rid of. I do not see how simply appealing to morals will do it.”

He’s got a point. America’s food economy, like Britain’s, is built upon abundance and waste.

Restaurants and supermarkets would rather waste food than lose a sale. They are much better at predicting demand, but still overorder in case something odd–like a big storm–leads to a spike in business.

photo by ms cwang (via flickr)Convenience stores are based upon, well, convenience. They’re not cooking anything to order and as a result, they toss more food (and coffee) than anyone–26% according to this study. This is increasingly true as they offer more variety like sandwiches, sushi, taquitos, etc. The same holds true, to a lesser extent, for Fast Food restaurants.

“Appealing to morals” alone will not end food waste, but it can’t hurt. If we’re wasting about half of all the food we produce, we need all the help we can get.

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  1. Brett
    Posted March 6, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    What is sad is that our culture isn’t OK with waiting a few minutes for an item of food to be prepared. It has to be there instantly, which is why so much overpreparation occurs. Heaven forbid we wait a few minutes while every convieniece store item is made to order.

    It’s also sad how much gets tossed before it truly goes bad.

  2. Posted April 26, 2008 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I love your hot dog picture. When I was in college I worked at a movie theater and we sold hot dogs and nachos, along with popcorn. Every night we took the hot dogs that didn’t sell and put them in the fridge. The next morning we ran them under water and put them back on the hot dog roller. Talk about recycling. We did the same thing for the popcorn and nachos.

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