Sustainability and Food Waste – Bernard J. David

Bernard talks about sustainability from the perspective of food. Why food? Well, Bernard talks of Maslow’s hierarchy of need. From a perspective that sustainability is new. We need to get the basics first. Maslow’s hierarchy starts with the basic needs. The physiological needs that everyone needs to survive. Food is one of the basic needs.

Just some numbers to talk about 50% of land in the US is used for food production. 80% of freshwater is used in farming. 10% of energy in transportation goes to moving food around. So this is a gigantic industry and there are many players. Globally, food production uses 1/3 of the land. 70% of fresh water is consumed. 3.1% of total global energy is used in production. It takes an average of 7-10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food.

Bernard then went and talk about another food industry. The food waste industry. Food waste takes up 20% of US’s fresh water. 25% of methane GHG production in US comes from food waste. To put into perspective, the amount of food wasted each year divided would be about 20 pounds of food per person in the US. It is a $165 Billion dollar industry. FAO studies show that if 15%, only 15% of the food waste is saved, there would be enough food to feed 25 million Americans to each day for a year.

So where are food loss occurring? FAO shows five steps in the food production supply chains. 1. Production losses, 2. Postharvest, handling and storage losses, 3. Processing and Packaging losses, 4. Distributing and retail losses, and 5. Consumer losses. FAO’s study shows that consumer losses is the largest in terms of numbers.

Globally 30-50% of food is wasted. About 38% of production grain is wasted. 50% of seafood (that is every 1 in 2 fish), 52% fruits and vegetables, 22% meat, and 20% milk and dairy.

Bernard talks of his recent trip to Whole Food. He wanted to buy a bag of arugula. But the bin of arugula had some yellow leaves. So the store clerk would not let him buy it. So there are varying ways to help reduce this waste. Retails need better systems. Staffing, packaging size, sales, seasonal food, etc. But even if all Retails yield no waste. Consumer waste will still need work. Consumers are not just individuals. Large whole sales, food services, schools are all consumers.

Let’s look at that 1 in 2 fish. In production or harvest, bycatch is the main contribution to waste. Globally, on average 5.7 bycatch occurs for every shrimp caught. In some regions as high as 20:1 bycatch ratio can occur. From consumer’s standpoint, fresh is the word in times of fish. If a fish is not fresh, well no one is going to buy it.

So we need solutions. It is a $165 Billion dollar industry. What is this industry? Well Bernard suggest the word “bioconversion”. Sustainable food is not just working with the food industry anymore, it is this potential creation of the new industry.


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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