Blaming consumers, farmers and business for food waste
Weather events are often blamed for crop waste/shrink, but Gunders contends, “It does not take an extreme weather event, or a weather event at all, for crops to go to waste in the fields. In fact, thousands of acres of perfectly edible produce go to waste every year because of market fluctuations, cosmetic imperfections, and other reasons.”
click image to zoom This new crop loss report NRDC admits surveyed a small sample of 16 farmers and packer-shippers in the central coast and Central Valley of California. NRDC calls the results “an anecdotal snapshot of the extent of losses that occur.” They found that “shrink,” another word for lost product, “could be as low as 1 percent for the crops which were studied and, depending on weather and market conditions of a particular year, as high as 30 percent. Losses for plums and nectarines were on the high side; head lettuce and broccoli losses (at least where the farmer was selling florets separately) were relatively low.
Gunders then proceeds into making calculations related to an ideal world. “If just 5 percent of the U.S. broccoli production is not harvested, over 90 million pounds of broccoli go uneaten. That would be enough to feed every child that participates in the National School Lunch Program with 11 servings of 4-ounces of broccoli.
“It also translates to a lot of resources used for naught. For example, if just 5 percent of broccoli grown in Monterey County, California (producer of 40 percent of U.S. broccoli) is not harvested, that represents the wasted use of 1.6 billion gallons of water and 450,000 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer (a contributor to global warming and water pollution),” Gunders wrote. “And let’s not forget about the energy, pesticides, land, and other resources that went into growing that food. All told, it would amount to about a $12 million bill for broccoli farmers—a chunk of change and resources that warrant further investigation into how we might recover and improve upon some of these unnecessary staggering produce losses.”
The NRDC admits it is consumers as much as anyone that causes problems because they search for the perfectly round, perfectly colored, perfectly sized peach, we as consumers ultimately drive much of this waste.
Gunders tried to show some sympathy for farmers and show that she understands vegetable and fruit production to a degree in her report issued to consumer and agricultural news outlets.