How do you decide which fresh foods end up in your grocery cart? If you’re like most people, you go by how they look.
The moment we walk into the grocery store, we are met with a colorful variety of produce. What’s interesting is that we shoppers expect every individual fruit or veggie to look perfect. We often think that how the produce looks will determine its quality. However, that is decidedly false. Smaller produce, slightly misshapen produce, and blemished produce are just as nutritious and taste equally as yummy, if not better, than their perfectly formed counterparts.
Why should we care that “ugly food” gets a bad rap? Consumers have power, and when we use our eyes to pick produce, we send a message to farmers and grocery stores that we only want perfect looking foods. This means that a shocking amount of ugly food--food that does not meet grocery store’s aesthetic standards--is wasted before it even gets to the grocery store.
The EPA estimates that 31% (133 billion pounds) of food is wasted each year. This large amount of food waste sent to landfills contributes to 18% of total U.S. methane emissions. Much of wasted food is nutritious and safe to eat, but has been thrown away because it fails to meet aesthetic standards, portion sizes are too large, use by labels are misread, and for many other reasons.
Fruits and vegetables very rarely grow in the ideal shape, size, and color commonly sold in grocery stores across the country. In fact, it takes many extra resources, like water, fertilizer, and pesticides, in order to produce those magazine ready fruits and veggies.
What can we do help reduce food waste?
Buy ugly food at the grocery store!
Try to find produce retailers near you that sell “ugly food”
Shop at your local farmer’s market
Make a list and only buy what you need from the store
Eat left overs first before you make a new meal
What is U-M doing to reduce food waste?