Water, Food Wasted

Thursday I wrote about colleges cutting the use of trays. In addition to limiting food waste, it curtails water usage, as there are no trays to wash.

Another way to save water is to not waste food in general. Saving Water: From Field to Fork, a new report by the Stockholm Water Management Institute (SIWI), Chalmers University, the International Water Management Institute and the Stockholm Environmental Institute, hammers home this point.photo by AHMED (via Creative Commons)

The report’s main food waste finding–huge news!–is this:

Losses and wastage may be in the order of 50 percent between field and fork.

Sites near and far, have simplified that finding into: we waste half of our food. That’s a bit misleading.

Headlines like this are not quite accurate because the report notes a difference between ‘losses’ and ‘wastage.’ The former includes the crop lost to rodents, pest and disease. While wastage refers to the discarding of perfectly good food.

This headline is more like it.

The distinction between loss and waste raises some interesting questions on what exactly we mean when we say ‘food waste.’

The SIWI study’s 50 percent estimate includes grain ‘lost’ when it’s fed to livestock because animals require many calories of grain to produce one calorie of meat. I’d call that an inefficiency, not a loss.

From my perspective, wasted food refers to avoidable losses. That would not include weather damage or animal feed. But I’d love to hear your take on the matter; it’s definitely a topic worth more consideration.

In the end, the study calls for us to halve the amount of food lost and/or wasted. No matter which word you use, that’s a worthy goal.

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