“The world is consuming more animal protein than it needs and this is having a devastating effect on wildlife,” said Duncan Williamson, WWF food policy manager. “A staggering 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to the food we eat. We know a lot of people are aware that a meat-based diet has an impact on water and land, as well as causing greenhouse gas emissions, but few know the biggest issue of all comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat.”
With 23 [billion] chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and guinea fowl on the planet – more than three per person – the biggest user of crop-based feed globally is poultry. The second largest, with 30% of the world’s feed in 2009, is the pig industry.
Some studies even indicate that you can make a bigger impact reducing your carbon footprint by avoiding meat consumption than even by driving a hybrid.
Between our preference for meat-heavy diets and tendency to waste food, individual eating habits are making a major impact on the climate and the environment around us.
Now that’s some food for thought.
Food waste is a staggering problem. Researchers estimate that Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food each year. Globally, we waste or lose 1.3 billion tons of food annually. The economic costs are significant: the typical American family spends about $1,500 on food that they throw away, adding up to billions of dollars of waste.
Environmentally, it’s also a huge contributor to climate change. Analysts have documented that food waste leads to 3.3 gigatons [billion tons] of CO2 equivalent emissions, making it the third top emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China.
One relatively straightforward solution is for the food industry to standardize food labeling. Fortunately, an industry group has agreed to tackle the problem, per NPR. The Consumer Goods Forum is a network of 400 of the largest food and consumer goods companies around the globe (including Walmart, Kellogg, Nestle, Campbell Soup, and Amazon), with a plan to harmonize labels:
These are the two standard phrases that you can expect to see on food packages in the future: “BEST if Used By,” which describes the quality of a food product. This term is meant to convey that “the product may not taste or perform” its best after the specified date, “but it is safe to use or consume,” explains the Food Marketing Institute in this release.
The second term is “Use By,” which applies to highly perishable products. “These products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date,” explains the FMI.
This is an important step that will hopefully give consumers more guidance about when to throw out food or not. We’ll still need to tackle other parts of the problem, such as minimizing waste in the fields and at markets, but consumer education is a big need.
If you’d like to hear more about how to reduce food waste, check out this City Visions discussion I hosted in August on KALW FM 91.7.
Most of us throw out old food all the time. But combined with the food waste from grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses, it’s become a serious economic, environmental, and even moral problem. Astonishingly, researchers tell us that 40% of all food grown in the United States each year winds up in the trash.
This waste occurs while nearly 1 in 5 children in California goes to bed hungry each night. The economic losses are significant, and the waste also creates an environmental problem, as the decaying food emits potent greenhouse gases.
So what can we do differently on farms and in restaurants, grocery stores and our own homes to reduce the amount of food wasted? Join us tonight on City Visions when we explore the topic of food waste and find out what several Bay Area organizations are doing about it.
Guests will include:
- JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate in the Food and Agriculture Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council
- Chris Cochran, Executive Director of ReFED
- Mary Risley, Founder of Food Runners
You can tune in live at 7pm on 91.7 FM in San Francisco or stream it on the City Visions website. Feel free to send me your questions for the panel directly. Hope you can join the conversation!