Invisible Elephants

27 percent. 96 billion pounds.

Those are the numbers most often associated with food waste. What frustrates me is that they’re 13 years old. Those statistics come from this 1997 study, which uses 1995 figures. Hence, the data is ready for its Bar Mitzvah!

There are a few other limitations of the study, which I’ve been railing about for almost a year. Most notably, the authors acknowledge (on page 5 of the PDF) that the study probably underestimates waste:

…estimates of retail, foodservice, and consumer food losses are likely understated due to limitations in the published studies on which these estimates were based.

As you’ve read, the USDA’s number crunchers–the Economic Research Service (ERS)–are updating the study. Yet, this will take time. Monday, an ERS economist told me it’d likely be 2009.

In the interim, allow me to provide an unofficial update. If the percentage of food we squander has stayed the same-and I have no reason to think it has gone down–we now Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins drawing, courtesy of Wikipediawaste more than 150 billion pounds of food annually.

Again, this is a rough calculation, since it doesn’t include an updated waste percentage. But still. Putting the number in perspective, our annual food waste equals the weight of 15 million elephants. Why is it that we’re only now beginning to see our ‘elephant(s) in the room?’

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4 Comments

  1. Posted May 21, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Simply, we’ve had the luxury of waste for many years. As a result, we’ve created a disposable culture based around convenience. You don’t see something you’ve been inculcated NOT to see.

  2. Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    that makes me nauseous. honestly is there a way to shovel all this wasted food to countries who can’t get a slice of bread? i’ve written a little entry on my blog by all means its way down there compared to being written up in the NYT but i really appreciate what you’re doing.

  3. Jonathan
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    So true, J.A.A. But once you start looking for food waste…you can’t help NOT seeing it.

  4. Posted February 12, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    It isn’t meant to become a piece of furniture, so let us determine out the way to deal with it and obtain you managing yet again.

One Trackback

  1. [...] 96 billion pounds of food – or 27% of the 356 billion pounds of edible food available – is wasted each year in the U.S. according to the U.S, Department of Agriculture. On his Wasted Food blog, Jonathan Bloom places that figure at more than 150 billion pounds. [...]

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