THE LAST BITE: A FOOD WASTE STORY

The goal of food waste reduction would be to use our food until the very last bite. It is very difficult, but the good news are that we can start taking actions to get close to the zero waste.

Every food has its own story from the minute it is harvested, until the minute we eat it. If we can read that story and measure it, we would be able to minimize the waste.

First we have to differentiate between the food that is lost or wasted:

  • Food loss: The food that never gets to you from the moment it is harvested. For example, Romaine lettuce leaves that get left behind as the retailer only sells the Romaine lettuce hearts.

  • Food waste: The food that gets to the end of its life, ie, in your fridge that you don’t eat. It has been fit for consumption but does not get consumed.

  • Food wastage:Often food has spoiled but it can be for other reasons such as oversupply due to markets, or individual consumer shopping/eating habits. Food wastage refers to any food lost by deterioration or waste. Thus, the term “wastage” encompasses both food loss and food waste.

The Numbers

Yearly we produce over 5000 million tons of food, or in comparison, the Boeing 747 airplane weighs 183 tons, it would be equivalent to 29 million of these planes, we waste 30% of that food! Which would be the same weight as 9 million Boeing 747 planes.

If we check how much we waste per person per year, the US is the leader, Canada second and Australia is third.

If food wastage was a country, it would rank 3rd in the carbon footprint, it would be the 3rd CO2 emitter in the world. The water used to grow this food equals 74 million Olympic pools, the land it uses is equal to 27 times the surface of Spain, all just for food which is never going to be eaten!

Supply chain phases

Food is wasted or lost across the different stages of the supply chain in different percentages approximately.

  • Production, post-harvest handling and processing: 68%

  • Distribution: 13%

  • Consumption: 22%

These numbers are considered globally, however, high-income countries are wasting up to almost 40% of food at home and low-income countries are wasting a lot at the beginning of the supply chain because they don’t have the technology and resources that we have. Yet in contrast to the high-income countries, low-income countries don’t actually receive as much food as the higher-income countries in the first place, so they don’t waste as much at the consumption stage.

The Challenges

There are a number of challenges on the supply chain that cause food wastage, for example the lack of enough human resources that causes food to be left in the fields, poor cold chain solutions, meaning not a proper temperature for the food, too long times under unwanted temperatures and no measurements of operations at all or inaccurate measurements.

Retailers often don’t handle the product properly in-store, for example, they don’t use refrigeration for fresh produce or they over-stock the shelves in excess, therefore this food ends up unbought and then wasted.

The market is demanding beautiful products leaving behind the not regular and imperfect food.

We as consumers often buy more than we need and end up wasting a lot of this food. Also, we end up buying food which is near to it’s spoiling date, so after purchasing the product should last 5 days, however, it only lasts 2 days so we are unaware when purchasing what the real expiry date is as the retailers are also unaware too. 80% of Americans and 20% of UK citizens don’t understand the date labels and throw things away as they think they are out of date.

ReFED Date Labeling Standardization Tool https://www.refed.com/solutions/standardized-date-labeling/

The Solutions

The governments have obligations to conduct further studies in the supply chain. Also, they must standardize the date labels (best before and use by) as many people get confused by them. Use by is meant to indicate food that could be poisonous after that date (for example, a precooked shellfish dish).

From growers to retailers, they should start to conduct food wastage audits. To identify inefficiencies and improve the processes. They can invest in alternative solutions such as freshness prediction, so when it arrives at the store they can predict what the remaining shelf life is and how to store/display it correctly according to this (inventory management).

Some of the leaders in the industry are starting to have dedicated people to manage fresh foods so they are aware of what is happening with the produce.

Retailers have to sell imperfect products! This is obvious and is already happening quite a bit, for example in France it is mandatory they have to display and sell imperfect products.

Governments and retailers should enable channels that allow the use of food that is not going to be sold in the supermarkets, such as donation programs or apps that facilitate the people to access to the food in more affordable manner.

Some companies are fighting against food waste. ‘Too Good To Go’ (you can buy leftover food from restaurants and shops for a small price). And imperfect foods ‘Imperfect Foods’. My company The Fresh Impact are trying to solve the food waste problem and create solutions.

This is the text from the “The last bite: A food waste story” talk I gave at The Living Room co-working space, you can find the full article here .

25 thoughts on “THE LAST BITE: A FOOD WASTE STORY

  1. jennie Reply

    This is a topic which is near to my heart… Cheers!

    Where are your contact details though?

  2. John Reply

    This is very fascinating, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and stay up for in quest of extra of your excellent post.
    Also, I’ve shared your website in my social networks

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hi, thanks! We are trying our best.
      Cheers

  3. edenerotikashop.hu Reply

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more
    than just your articles? I mean, what you say is
    important and all. Nevertheless just imagine if you added some
    great graphics or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with images and video clips, this website could definitely be one of the very best
    in its niche. Terrific blog!

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hello edenerotikashop.hu,
      Thanks for the comment! I will apply that on further articles. I want not just to talk about food waste, but also add content cold chain, supply chain, good practices and everything related to food supply chain.
      Cheers!

  4. cbd Reply

    Good day I am so grateful I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Aol for something else, Anyways I
    am here now and would just like to say kudos for a fantastic post
    and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be
    back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the fantastic work.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hello cbd, I am glad you enjoyed the content. The blog is the social face for the whole idea about Fresh Impact.
      First we have to be aware of one of the big issues we have in our hands -food waste- from the consumer point of view. Then as you descend the stairs in the food supply chain until the producers there are so many steps that can be assessed and optimized for improving the remaining shelf life of fresh fruit and vegetables, somethings as simple as the way you are packaging the produce, or as complex as the entire temperature profile of the goods in transportation. That is why we do consultancy in the fresh food supply chain, because freshness matters to all of us from producer to consumer.
      Cheers!

  5. cbd Reply

    Hello! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you have
    right here on this post. I’ll be returning to your web site for more soon.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hi cbd, really thanks for the comment, we will be soon posting more content.
      Cheers!

  6. Carlos Prieto Reply

    Está claro que es imposible producir lo justo, pero no podemos sobrexplotar para después desperdiciar. Hace años era un problema ético porque seguía habiendo grandes hambrunas, hoy es un problema ético con nuestro planeta (el único que tenemos), con el sufrimiento animal y con la responsabilidad que tenemos como especie que domina el mundo. Mucha suerte, el problema es grande, pero se empieza con iniciativas como la tuya

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hola Carlos, gracias por el comentario. Tenemos la tecnología y el conocimiento para que los recursos y todo el esfuerzo de agricultores y ganaderos se aproveche al máximo. Vamos a por ello!

  7. Marisa España Reply

    Parece que el problema no tiene solución, y este trabajo abre unas perspectivas muy interesante sobre las que trabajar para lograr solucionarlo. Espero que nos mantengas informados de tus logros porque tus objetivos son muy importantes no sólo a nivel económico sino también social.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hola Marisa, muchas gracias por tu comentario. En toda la cadena de suministro hay muchas ineficiencias, algunas son pequeñas pero la suma de todas llega a ser grande, si la estudiamos de forma global tenemos un punto de apoyo muy potente para crear un efecto positivo económico y social.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Gracias por tu comentario Luis Miguel! Poco a poco hay que crear impacto 🙂

  8. Álvaro Pérez Reply

    Hi Richy,

    Very nice article. After reading it, I got a clear picture of the origin of the problem and the actors that should help solve it.

    Looking forward to more details in future posts!

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hi Alvaro, thanks for the comment, the right way of assessing it is by looking to the whole supply chain and see the domino effect of some food handling. We can point to the right part of the chain and help optimizing processes.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Hola Dani, gracias por tu comentario, poco a poco podemos tener un gran efecto.

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Me alegro de que te haya parecido interesante Teresa!

  9. Alex Badía Reply

    Hola Ricardo.
    Es muy interesante todo lo que describes en el artículo.
    La importancia del aprovechamiento de los alimentos.
    un abrazo!

    • Ricardo Badía Post author

      Gracias Alex por comentar. Es muy interesante la distribución de el aprovechamiento de los alimentos, los datos nos ayudan a identificar dónde poner mayor esfuerzo.

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