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Over 30 percent of food in America is wasted due to grocery stores, producers, and even customers. Thirty percent of food is about $162 billion dollars being wasted on food which isn’t even consumed. A major cause of food waste is a customer’s view on how aesthetic the product is. We are the problem, consumers are expecting perfect produce, which causes a huge effect on the market, and grocery stores wasting perfectly healthy produce.
If you go to a local grocery store now, you will rarely see unaesthetic produce. Grocery stores are forced to discard of unaesthetic produce because consumers will not purchase it, leading to the food already being wasted, and the company losing money as well. Even farmers who produce the food can’t do much, in an article from The Guardian, Jay Johnson says “”What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.”” Grocery stores requires the produce to be perfected, otherwise they reject it, and the farmers have no choice but to waste the food.
How it works
Grocery stores aren’t the problem, farmers aren’t the problem, we are the root of the problem. Farmers don’t throw away unaesthetic food on purpose, they are forced to. Grocery stores don’t stock shelves with unaesthetic food on purpose, they are forced to. We, as consumers, are forcing them. Our demand on perfect produce is so high, that markets must supply us with it, resulting in food waste. Grocery stores meet our demands by injecting chemicals into produce, which perfects it. Retailers don’t care about what chemicals they put in their products, if we purchase it, they make more money, and boxes of produce leave their facilities.
Food wasted because of our perfect expectations not only loses money, but also affects the environment. Think about it like this, when food is produced, it needs to be packaged, processed, and transported. We are losing land, energy fertilizer, and 25% of fresh water for food that ends up being thrown away. Not only does it stop there, the food we throw away ends up rotting in landfills, which causes over 25% of U.S methane to release. We have all these problems getting worse and worse each year, all because we don’t want to eat an apple that is not a bright enough red.
Unaesthetic produce is also causing farmers to lose money, resulting in not being able to support their families. One farmer created baby carrots, because consumers wouldn’t buy his unaesthetic carrots. In the 1980s, Mike Yurosek was throwing 70% of his carrots, so he decided to rebrand the carrots and sand them smooth, which created “”baby carrots””. Mike created “”Bolthouse Farms”” a well-known company, and later produced carrot juice from the remaining scraps of his carrots. There are millions of farmers in the world, and the market is so big now, that not everyone can be like Mike. For example, a farmer in Florida is struggling to sell fresh spaghetti squash. In an article from The Guardian, Johnson says “”There is a lot of hunger and starvation in the United States, so how come I haven’t been able to find a home for this six-cents-a-pound food yet?”” The reason he can’t sell his food is because grocery stores will not purchase his food, due to the squash having a brown tint, making it “”unappealing produce””.
Even though unappealing produce has the same nutrition as aesthetic produce, we don’t buy unappealing produce, why? Humans are just naturally attracted to pretty things. For example, we look for a “”good-looking”” partner, animals that look cute to take home, and even nice clothes to wear, so it’s natural we choose aesthetic produce as well. There was a study in 2014, where people were served meals prepared by highly qualified chefs. The meals were the exact same, but the only difference was visual presentation. The participants in the study voted for the food that looked more aesthetic, and said they enjoyed it more, and thought the taste was better, even though the meals were the same. This study proves that we don’t taste with our mouth, but with our eyes. Consumers just naturally choose aesthetic produce, because our minds have been tailored over the years to choose attractive things.
Children are also being taught that when a banana has a brown shade, it’s not good for you. Parents who see a light-colored fruit, will not feed it to their children, because of fear. For example, a child was about to consume a mis-shaped apple, and his mother threw it away and yelled at him. This teaches the child that an apple that has unaesthetic looks, is not okay to eat. Parents are not doing this on purpose, they just don’t know that unaesthetic produce is perfectly fine to eat.
There are over 800 million people globally who are unfed. We produce 2.9 trillion pounds of food each year, which is enough to feed all 800 million people twice! All that food goes to waste instead of feeding those people, because of consumers high demand on aesthetic produce. We as consumers don’t buy products that are last on the shelves, we don’t buy produce that’s unaesthetic. We don’t realize the effect it has on the environment, farmers, and people who could use that food. Food waste is a huge problem in America, and over 90% of consumers are uneducated about the issue.
As you can see, a major problem of food waste is consumers view on how aesthetic the produce is. It’s very sad, because we are the cause of food-waste. We could blame grocery stores, but it’s a business. If grocery stores started to put unaesthetic produce on shelves, they would lose money which would cause a bigger issue. They are supplying us with our demands. Farmers are losing money and are unable to support their families in certain cases because of our demands. Parents are scared to feed unaesthetic produce to their children, because they think it’s unhealthy. This is a huge problem in society, and action needs to be taken immediately. To conclude, food waste is one big chain, but we, as consumers, start that chain.
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