Though Americans are often criticized for the amount of food we consume, a new book by British author Tristram Stuart gives the west a mouthful for all of the food we don't eat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, up to 96 billion pounds of edible food are discarded every year.
Good Magazine's analysis of Stuart's book, Waste: Uncovering The Global Food Scandal, reveals several startling facts, among them:
- The United States discards half the food it produces.
- The U.S. and Europe wastes enough food to feed the world three times over.
- New York City has an annual food surplus of 50 million pounds.
It's not all the consumer's fault, either. Fishermen are throwing back dead fish that could feed the hungry, and American farmers are often forced to destroy perfectly good crops due to contractual obligation or under the guise of foodborne illness prevention. Stuart argues for a systemic change in the way we produce food, but what can an individual do the curb this disturbing trend? Stuart's suggestions:
- Don't be so quick to discard leftovers. Make each meal go farther.
- Start a compost pile and keep uneaten fruits and vegetables out of the trash.
- Encourage local legislators to increase taxes on trash pickup. The less people discard, the less we'll all pay. You can also encourage your city to consider a food recycling program like the one in San Francisco.
- Eat less meat. Only 13 percent of the calories fed to beef cattle ultimately get consumed by a human. A softening of the meat industry could save the trillions of calories currently used to fatten up cattle.