Half of all food waste in the developed world happens at the consumer end – that is, we throw the food that we’ve purchased or grown away for some reason or another. It spoiled from mishandling, it gets wasted, or for some other reason goes uneaten. We’re rarely conscious of this – just as we are rarely conscious of the enormous impact of personal actions at every level. Divide American food waste among 300 million people, and dumping that apple or tossing those fries just doesn’t seem like a big deal.
A very small minority of American food waste happens at the farm and field end – this is in contrast to the poor world, where the vast majority of food losses are due to inability to preserve them. So it is fascinating to me how much outrage is being generated about farmers in Florida who are composting the strawberry crop rather than pay to have it harvested.
Is this bad? Sure. But so are prices of 25 cents a lb for strawberries at the farm end. And so are the liability laws that make it risky for a farmer with a minute profit margin to invite workers from food pantries out to harvest. It is interesting to watch the outrage here – and wonder to what consider their own complicity in our food waste paradigm. Don’t get me wrong – I’d like to see those farms opened up to harvest – but I’d also like people to realize that rock bottom food prices come with a cost – both to farmers and to them.