It’s no secret that America’s food waste is an astronomical problem. From overstocking supermarkets to food left on plates in our own homes, more than 25 billion fish, 15 billion shellfish, 1 billion chickens and hundreds of millions of other land animals are being killed every year to serve the U.S. food supply to simply end up dumped in the trash. In other words, an estimated 26.2% of all meat that enters the US retail market ends up thrown away.
Animals Used and Abused for Food That is Not Eaten
The graph below shows the percentage of the edible weight of animal products that enter the retail market but are not eaten and in turn end up in the landfills. The two losses shown are loss at retail level and loss at consumer level. Loss at retail level accounts for overstocked inventory, damaged goods, unpopular products, prepared food that is not purchased within a given time frame, and expiration of sell by dates. Loss at consumer level accounts for impulse buying, spoilage, large portion sizes and overfilling of plates, among other things.
To make matters worse, these numbers don’t even include losses that happened before entering the retail market such as during processing, transportation and distribution.
Why So Much Waste?
The main factor in food waste is perishables, from meat and seafood to baked goods and ready made foods. One industry consultant estimates that up to one in seven truckloads of perishables delivered to supermarkets is thrown away.
There are also a number of other contributing factors to what ends up in the landfills each year, including:
- Unrealistic portion sizes at restaurants
- Picky consumer expectations
- Uneaten food during holiday celebrations
- Improper storage of food
Eliminating Waste Would Save Billions of Lives
If Americans cut their waste by just half at a consumer level, we would save the lives of more than 15 billion fish and shellfish, 500 million chickens, 35 million laying hens, 15 million pigs and 3 million cows every year. Surely even the most carnivorous among us would agree that inflicting lifelong misery and ultimately death on an animal that is just going to end up in the trash is deeply wrong?
Animal Advocates and Environmentalists Should Join Forces
Many environmental organizations are already fighting hard to cut consumption, along with authors, celebrities and many passionate members of the public, and there is a compelling motivation for animal advocacy groups to join forces to help bring about greater and faster change that would not only benefit the environment, but the animals too.
The environmental campaigns focusing on food waste don’t tend to consider the loss of animal’s lives in their argument, but with the growing reality of the hidden cruelty behind what we eat, the ability to save an enormous amount of lives surely adds to the rationale for reduction.
For the fish crammed into a space the size of a bathtub, for the hen that spends her entire life in a cage unable to stretch her wings and extend her limbs, for the pig confined to a crate unable to turn around — by cutting waste ,we can in the very least reduce the amount of animals that have to suffer.
Photo Credit: craigCloutier