Sunday, October 17, 2010

The waste created from getting food from the field to the consumer--Wanna get rich? Figure out a way to eliminate it or at least minimize it...

Anyone who attempts to live the "economic way of thinking", waste and/or inefficiency is the bane of their existence.  I have been reading a thread from a blog by a terrific AP economics teacher, who also teaches a class on logistics.  He made a point that has stuck with me and when I saw the article below on the tremendous amount of food that is wasted from field-to-table, it brought it to life (paraphrased): "If you want to get rich, create a way to get goods from one place to another faster than it is being done now." Are you up to the challenge?  Extra credit if you can come up with a viable solution to this problem!! (Other than the solutions mentioned below, of course)

""From WSJ: The U.S. produces about 591 billion pounds of food each year, and up to half of it goes to waste, costing farmers, consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.In his new book, "American Wasteland" (Da Capo Press, 2010), Jonathan Bloom examines the story of discarded food, from vegetables left to rot in the field to unsold hamburgers shovelled into restaurant trash bins. He also offers potential remedies, such as taxes on landfills, expanded composting programs and incentives for farmers to harvest all that they grow and to donate what they can't sell.
Below, a look at the cycle of food waste.

Food waste begins at farms. With lettuce, for example, the average harvest rate has been estimated at 85% to 90%. The rest of the lettuce—heads that don't look or feel perfect on quick inspection—are left in the field. One cucumber grower said that at least half of the cucumbers on his farms aren't harvested,mostly because they are too curved (making them hard to pack) or have white spots or small cracks. Farm losses are generally higher for hand-picked fruit and perishable vegetables than for machine-harvested commodity crops like corn and wheat; about 9% of commodity crops planted in the U.S. aren't harvested.

The average item in the produce section of your supermarket travels some 1,500 miles before arriving at its destination, either a wholesaler or a supermarket's regional distribution center. These journeys by truck, train, plane and ship bring more opportunities for lost food, as items decay or get damaged en route. In-transit losses reach 10% to 15% for some crops, with tomatoes, leafy greens and grapes among the most fragile.

U.S. supermarkets throw away an estimated 30 million pounds of food every day—damaged goods, expired products, dented boxes and the like. According to a recent study by the USDA, in 2006 supermarkets tossed out, on average, 8% of their fresh fruit, 8% of their fresh vegetables, 5% of their fresh meat and poultry and 9% of their fresh seafood. (Among the most frequently discarded items were mustard greens, at 61%, papaya, at 51%, and veal, at 28%.) Some of the unwanted food gets composted or donated, but most of it ends up in landfills. Researchers also estimate that American households waste 15% to 25% of the food that they buy, but the actual figure may be higher. A recent study in the United Kingdom found that British consumers throw away a third of the food that comes into their homes.

Commercial kitchens (in hospitals, schools and restaurants) throw away between 4% and 10% of the food that they purchase, for reasons like overproduction, spoilage, expiration, trimmings, burned items, catering leftovers and contamination. Up to 10% of the items at fast-food restaurants are discarded because they've sat too long after being prepared. The losses continue on the plate. A researcher from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab found that diners leave an average of 17% of their meals uneaten, because of factors like large serving sizes or unwanted side dishes. And roughly 55% of major leftovers aren't taken home.

Food scraps are the second-largest component of the national waste stream, making up 19% of what we put into landfills. (Americans compost only about 2.5% of the food that they discard.) Food in landfill creates methane, a source of greenhouse gas. In addition, 2% of all U.S. energy consumption goes into producing food that is ultimately thrown out. Some cities and countries have taken action. Seattle and San Francisco made household composting mandatory in 2009, and last summer, Norway banned food and biodegradable waste from its landfills.""
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