[Misleading Statistics] How much food do “we” actually wasted?

It is common to see articles of how many tons of food are wasted annually in this country or globally. Whenever news articles used the terms like millions and tons, they sound a lot. Then, we, as consumers would feel guilty or angry for such gluttonous and wasteful behavior from our society.

For example, this Bloomberg article stated Americans wasted 130,000,000,000 pound of food, or 130 billion pound of food annually. Meanwhile, the US had about 324,118,787 people in 2016. When we divide the numbers, an average American would waste 401.09 pound of food annually. As we divide further into counting as daily, an average American would waste 1.1 pound food per day, it is like throwing away a medium sized banana daily.

1.1 pound of food can be a lot if they are edible food. Imagine it is 1.1 pound of freshly cooked meat or vegetable, no one would throw these away. However, according to an article written by the American Journal of Economics, food waste are more than what are left over from our dining table. According to agricultural government agencies FAO and ERS, food that used as non food use are food waste too. For example, the food used to feed cattles, making compost and fertilizers in the grower and processor stage are counted as food loss. However, without these “food waste” in these two stages, food production will decrease and the price will increase due to lack of fertilizers and living cattles.


Food production stages

At the same time, the FDA only count the food that end up in the landfill as food waste from the retailer and consumer stage. They include the rotten fruits and outdated food from supermarkets and left overs after a meal. Also, non-edible parts like shells, animal bones, fruit skins like banana and watermelon… are included.

Overall, no matter using which method to calculate food loss, it is undoubtedly there is a lot of food wasted in the US annually.  As consumers, we should never waste food and store the left over if they are still edible. However, as consumers, we aren’t wasteful as the media claim us to be. It is highly unlikely that an average consumer would wasting 1.1 pound of edible food daily. In the consumer’s point of view, we could waste less if we take home the left over when dining at restaurants and don’t throw away food.



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