Can’t these people think?

Or is it just writing that is hard?

Forty percent of food produced in America heads to the landfill or is otherwise wasted. That adds up. Every year, the average American family throws out somewhere between $1,365 and $2,275, according to a landmark 2013 study co-authored by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It’s a huge economic loss for food growers and retailers, who often have to ditch weirdly shaped produce or overstocked food that didn’t sell.

Food that is paid for then thrown away isn’t all that close to being a huge economic loss for growers and retailers now, is it?

Further, families aren’t throwing out $1,369 or whatever. They paid that much for something that they then throw out – substantially different. At the point they throw it out it is, by definition, worth $0 to them.


33 thoughts on “Can’t these people think?”

  1. A family of 4 might spend $300/mo – $7200/yr – on groceries.

    I sincerely doubt Americans are throwing away around 25% of the food they’ve purchased.

    And if they are . . . well, its because they bought too much. Which is a self-correcting situation.

    And I’m pretty sure the authors are getting ‘food thrown away by the end consumer’ confused with ‘food thrown away in the whole supply chain’ – “who often have to ditch weirdly shaped produce or overstocked food that didn’t sell.” is a dead giveway that they’re conflating two separate things.

    And if sellers have to toss weirdly-shaped vegetables, isn’t that evidence of how wealthy we are? We can afford high aesthetic standards for our food.

    This is, I suspect, yet another ‘eat the bugs, live in the pod, don’t own anything’ article. Its amazing how much of this shit is being pushed nowadays.

  2. I would expect that the weirdly shaped vegetables end up in manufactured stuff like soup or pies. Leftover food at our house goes into chickens, apart from leftover chicken which goes into cats. If other people are mismanaging their food purchasing and wasting too much of it, isn’t that nobody’s business but their own?

  3. ISTR this claim from some years ago. My recollection is that the figure then included fat trimmings from meat, corn husks, vegetable peelings and the like. It was also a figure throughout the food chain, not solely at the consumer end as suggested.

    So it’s not strictly untrue, but it is apparently intended to mislead. The strong implication that 1 out of 4 pizzas ends up in the bin rather than being gifted to the poor is a wild misrepresentation of what actually happens.

  4. Had a rather nice broad bean salad, as part of last night’s dinner. (Fry up some diced pancetta, rinse out the pan with red wine vinegar to make dressing adding some garlic; barely cook the broad beans in water, drain, mix with dressing and enjoy)

    I reckon that, getting the beans out of their pods, about two-thirds of the weight of “the beans” (i.e. the big pile of broad bean in their pods) went in the compost bin, and I probably spent about £3 to buy them.

    Does that mean I “threw away £2 worth of food”, or did I buy the beans in Nature’s own wrappers, and merely discarded the inedible packaging in an environmentally responsible way?

  5. What the comments here seem to be telling me is that there are some people who are so determined to put a negative spin on things that they even lie to make things seem worse than they really are. The question that immediately comes to mind is why? What kind of outlook on life do you have to have to look on the black side no matter how rosy real life actually becomes. I find comfort from the words of Scrooge’s nephew who observed that Scrooge’s behaviour came with it’s own punishment.

  6. Nice comment Stonyground.
    Stories like this make me think “How lucky we are to live in a free enterprise capitalist society, where food is so plentiful and cheap!”.
    I wonder if the Venezuelans and North Koreans can waste so much?

    I think Agammamon had it in his last sentence: Great Reset ‘eat bugs’ message.

  7. Agammamon is correct. The point of these articles is to push people toward ‘eat the bugs, live in the pod, don’t own anything’.

    Or at least it’s so most people do that. The elect, on the other hand will be able to fly to conferences on climate change in Bali twice a year.

  8. Jason Lynch

    Try a quick wok stir fry of said beans with a smidgin of olive oil and a dash of preferred savoury/spicy sauce of choice.

  9. Climate change is another example of this kind of insanely negative thinking. Warmer weather is infinitely more benign than colder weather yet, somehow, global warming is a problem. The non problem just has to be man made despite the fact that natural variation is a far more likely explanation.

  10. @Stonyground, It isn’t the warmer weather, it’s the millions of side effects that will make the planet beg to be smashed into by an asteroid that we have to worry about …

  11. There is certainly one genuine problem – laws against donating food when it has reached its offical end date.

    A lot of these reports on food waste fail to distinguish between wasted food (i.e. something a reasonable person would have eaten) and food waste (anything related to food which is uneaten, such as banana skins, peach stones etc).

    The date markings on food can be confusing and that’s not a good thing. Even advocates of very free markets can see a problem with deceit. It would probably be better to replace current schemes with the date of production and a statement of likely lifetime. If people have to calculate the “best before” or “sell by” date, maybe they’ll think more about what it really means. The only goods which should have “use by” dates are those where it is difficult to tell if they are harmful (things like cooked meats where the taste and smell are not enough to indicate they are unsafe).

  12. To be fair there are people at the other end of the spectrum to those on here (who seem to be of the sensible post war generation who got guilted all the time about those starving Africans and eat up your leftovers right away young man!) who are incredibly wasteful. I have heard tales of some of my cousin’s families who will never eat leftovers, whatever is not eaten from what is prepared for a meal gets binned. Anything that is a day over the sell or use by date gets chucked too. So I can see that in the aggregate a lot of usable food gets wasted, not just potato peelings and the like.

  13. Don’t see anything wrong with eating bugs which seems to be taking a knock in this thread! The selection of food items we actually do eat – versus the extraordinary variety of what we actually could eat, given that other people around the world quite happily chow down on it – is pretty arbitrary and does change surprisingly rapidly over time. I remember visiting my grandparents and knocking up a quick meal using some pasta from the local supermarket – they regarded it as “foreign” food and ate it with a mixture of interest and scepticism, but it never became part of their diet. I don’t think they ever ate a pizza in their lives, and on another occasion I showed them muesli – which again they’d seen in shops but didn’t buy/eat – which they quite enjoyed but they’d rather stick with the morning porridge. On the other hand, they did quite regularly coook and eat rice dishes – a very anglicised form of curry, probably late Victorian in origin – whereas their grandparents probably, and great-grandparents almost certainly, would not have done.

    Insects and other invertebrates do seem an efficient – and in many accounts, surprisingly tasty if used wisely – way of producing protein and I can quite easily imagine them being incorporated into the diet without it being a retrograde step. Thinking back to my grandparents, they were big lovers of molluscs and crustaceans (mussels and crabmeat being particular favourites). I doubt they’d ever have tried an insectburger but if the younger generation are happy to do so, I’m quite happy to let them!

  14. There is a distinction in the UK when it comes to dates on food –

    ‘use by’ is put on stuff that could cause real problems like meat and dairy, though I’ve often binned fresh chicken before the stated date because it didn’t pass the smell test and also happily used meat that’s a few days beyond; beef tends to be good for at least a week more.

    ‘best before’ is for everything else where it might not be quite so good after that date but is unlikely to make you seriously ill.

    I fear few consumers know or understand the difference, and many lack the basic food prep skills to make a judgement based on look/smell/touch.

    My wife’s grandmother would religiously bin anything that went past the date on the packet despite having lived through rationing and spent most of her adult life as a cook. I think this was more of a rules based mentality – there was a date on the packet so that must be obeyed, no questions asked – quite common in that generation and sadly seems to be popular amongst youngsters these days too.

  15. Statistics on food waste can mean anything anyone wants them to mean. The mention of potato peelings, peach stones,etc, have already been made (peach stones, by the way, is a terrific name for a band).
    Some months ago, feeling a bit superior, I gave an apparently homel;ess man, a Big Mac meal and a hot coffee. He threw it in a nearby bin, demanding that I give him money. I wonder if this would count in the statistics for waste food.

  16. Must confess, I’m notoriously bad at eating food past it’s sell by date. Comes of having people in the house who independently shop. Never quite sure what’s in the fridges (multiple). If it looks good I eat it. Some of it a month overdue. Never seems to do any harm. But I never suffer from bad gut. The two may be connected.
    I’m somewhat convinced by the theory that the more fastidious you are with hygiene, the more trouble you store up for yourself. The more your immune system gets challenged, the healthier you are.
    I’ve eaten locusts in Algeria. Better if you shell them first. Bit less threatening. It was one of those non-optional experiences. Damn sight better than Sierra Leone home cooking, anyway. Tastes vaguely like prawn I suppose.

  17. @Stonyground, I hoped that the ‘millions’ would make it clear that I am a climate change denier, and that my post was satirical. I can’t find the website that used to list all the things said to be the result of global warming which were obviously not, because it has been swamped by oodles of posts from people who believe in the AGW scam listing what they say will happen.

  18. Must admit I empty the bread crumbs from my loaf of sliced bread into my stockpot of stew.

    But that’s because if I don’t, the bloody ants swarm all over them and infest my rubbish bin.

  19. If it looks good I eat it

    We wouldn’t have made it as far as inventing fridges, or indeed anything, if we weren’t capable of telling for ourselves what is ‘off’. Look and smell are all you need.

    I also call BS on the ‘40% of food is wasted’ line. It’s all part of the WEF’s ‘keep the good stuff away from the proles’ campaign. Ditto eating insects. If people want to, fair enough, but if bugs were as tasty as lobster, we’d already be eating them.

    Here in HK, I have noticed more and more menus becoming infected with pretend meat, like Impossible burgers. Still, as long as production of this shit doesn’t take resources away from grass-fed beef, I don’t care.

  20. Meant to add, there is no point in trying to determine whether the people who write this guff are thick or disingenuous. It is impossible to tell. They are all both to some degree. It is a bit like trying to tell the difference between confected outrage and genuine anger in your lefty. They don’t know themselves.

  21. @Excavator Man. I’m normally fairly good at spotting sarcasm, even in the written format, but I missed it this time.

  22. Bloke in North Korea (Germany province)

    The more I read about bis’ domestic arrangements the more convinced I am that Spanish brothels rather resemble British student digs. Probably with less laundry. Or, at least, different laundry.

  23. This is my drum, BiG. Private property. I just find latinas make good pets. They don’t moult & they take themselves for walks. But they’re obsessive cleaners & launderers. As close to the opposite of a student digs as you could find.
    But there’s one problem. Because of where they come from, they’re incapable of throwing food away. Anything not eaten gets carefully wrapped in clingfilm & put in a fridge. Why they’re multiple. And forgotten. You could feed armies out of our fridges. But they do make excellent grazing if you’re peckish.

  24. @Excavator Man – July 8, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    I can’t find the website that used to list all the things said to be the result of global warming which were obviously not, Maybe?

  25. ISTR a figure for food waste in Africa, 30 – 40% between farm and market. And that’s just stage one of the food chain.
    It seems the poorer you are the more you waste.
    So the solution to food waste is to build decent roads and live a Western lifestyle.

    Third world fish are a good example. It used to be a case of glut or shortage. But with a mobile phone network boats can choose the best place to land the fish, providing sufficient for everyone thanks to a free market with proper price signals.

  26. @Bloke in Kent
    “and many lack the basic food prep skills to make a judgement based on look/smell/touch” – this is sadly so, yet rotten food usually smells rotten, so it should be easy and natural and normal, but it isn’t ……..

  27. @Penseivat

    “ Some months ago, feeling a bit superior, I gave an apparently homel;ess man, a Big Mac meal and a hot coffee. He threw it in a nearby bin, demanding that I give him money. I wonder if this would count in the statistics for waste food.”

    Happened to my brother – allegedly homeless bloke came up to him and a couple of his mates while he was sitting in town having lunchtime Marks and Sparks sandwiches, and said he was starving, could they spare some food. So my brother handed over a cheese and pickle sandwich which the guy looked at in disgust and said he wanted prawn cocktail.

    It afforded my brother the opportunity to use the immortal line, “Sorry mate, beggars can’t be choosers.”

  28. @MC

    “Ditto eating insects. If people want to, fair enough, but if bugs were as tasty as lobster, we’d already be eating them.”

    Dunno about the logic in that. Some people are eating them, the question is why that doesn’t include us. But then there’s a lot of other stuff we aren’t eating. Go back to my grandparents’ generation and does the logic still apply – “if pasta was as tasty as potato or rice” (their sources of starch) “then wouldn’t Brits be eating pasta already?” There must be at least thousands of potential meals out there which are eaten in some cultures but not others. Perhaps an order of magnitude – or two – greater than that? Hunter-gatherers often having very limited localised food sources and not being too fussy about which of those they get their hands on. Then there’s the contents of an East or Southeast Asian wet market. Yet I think even someone with a culinary sense of adventure might only get through a hundred different types of meal a year, by no means taken representatively from the full gamut of the world’s varied cuisines, and most of us will stick within a couple of dozen. So I don’t think you can take a random person and conclude that what they eat is somehow a local or global “optimum”, rather than being based somewhat arbitrarily on their personal habits, particular culture, local trade routes, childhood exposure, cultural norms (including religious restrictions but not limited to them – Brits have a hard sell with horse, snails, dogs, and though my grandparents would farm their own rabbits, I’m told even meat-eating kids tend to refuse rabbit when offered these days based on some kind of “cuteness criterion” that weirdly doesn’t get applied to lamb).

    Also, just because X is tastier than Y doesn’t mean X always completely replaces Y. There can still be a taste-vs-price tradeoff. Plus whatever other criteria people value in food – ease of preparation, perceived health benefits? Or sometimes the two foodstuffs just play a different role. Ice cream won’t replace potato despite being tastier, or at least, I bloody well hope it doesn’t happen in my own lifetime. What struck me as the most credible suggestion for the incorporation of insects into the Western diet is being ground up as a powder and used as a cheap way to “beef up” (by beefing down…) the content of burgers and sausages. Potentially not much more offputting than some of the stuff that already does make it in! Whereas lobster isn’t likely to end up that way due to its cost.

  29. even meat-eating kids tend to refuse rabbit when offered these days
    Not just these days. Back in the 1970s my kids refused to eat rabbit if it was so-named. Re-named as Chinese Chicken it was eaten and enjoyed.

  30. A useful ‘rule of thumb’ is to treat anything with which the NRDC is connected as drivel, mean-spirited, frightfully biased and best ignored or challenged (if you have nothing else to occupy some time).

  31. @Excavator Man – July 8, 2021 at 10:38 pm

    I can’t find the website that used to list all the things said to be the result of global warming which were obviously not,

    Welcome to the Extinction Clock, the Internet’s authoritative source for end of world climate and extinction predictions.
    All predictions have been made by notable individuals, academics, politicians, institutes, and the press.

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