Here’s something you won’t hear from environmentalists, even though their own research shows it’s true. The food waste coalition ReFED estimates American consumers throw away about 27 million tons of food each year. That’s staggering, but even more sobering is that it costs the economy about $144 billion per year, as reported recently in The Washington Post.
Of that amount, about 20% consists of fruits and vegetables, according to a new study from the environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s separate from the 23% of prepared foods and leftovers that Americans throw away. If half the food in that category comprises fruits an vegetables, then nearly a third of all food waste comes from uneaten fruits and veggies!
By comparison, meat and fish account for just 3% of food waste, and dairy and eggs come in at 1%. That means animal agricultural products are less than 4% of the estimated food waste in America per year.
It’s ironic that the group that has attacked agriculture incessantly for overuse of antibiotics would now have to admit that, if food waste is added to the equation, then purchasing fruits and vegetables is even more harmful to the environment than meat production, especially since much of this food isn't eaten.
Admittedly, this position oversimplifies the problem, but when you consider the efficiency of livestock production in terms of protein availability when compared to vegetables, and how many acres of arable land would need to be converted to vegetable production if everyone stopped eating meat, the subsequent amount of food that would be wasted as a result is something to think about.
Let’s be real, meat tastes better than plants, and a 3 oz. serving of lean meat is much more satisfying than the equivalent amount of calories, protein and other nutrients found in veggies or fruits.
It’s a new way of looking at what we eat and why we eat it, and should be part of the conversation.