40 percent of fresh produce in Germany is rejected by stores due to “stringent cosmetic standards.” If not thrown away, it is plowed back into fields as fertilizer or used in other food products. Recognizing how wasteful and unsustainable these practices are, three students from the University of Weimar in Germany have created an ambitious ad campaign to promote ugly fruits and vegetables.
Giacomo Blume, Moritz Glück and Daniel Plath have created visuals featuring knobby, bumpy, bulbous fruits and vegetables and quotes from farmers, like this one from Thomas Günthel: “Whatever tastes good should end up on your plate, and not in the trash can. No matter what it looks like.”
The three students have also created initiatives, such as one suggesting that less-than-eye-catching, “imperfect” produce be sold from a garbage truck at farmers’ markets.
Slightly bruised, less than perfect produce is just as healthy as the shiny, round apples and lemons we’ve come to see as the norm. The result has been a huge increase in the amount of food that is discarded for cosmetic reasons alone. In the U.S., “product grading” means that harvesting crews are “trained to pick to certain specifications, thus leaving small, misshapen, or otherwise lower-grade product in the field.” Once produce goes to a packing facility, it is further scrutinized, leading to “further ‘culling,’ or removal of product.”
Germany, the U.S., the U.K. and other Western nations all let nearly half of the food they produce go to waste. According to a 2013 report (pdf) from the National Resources Defense Council:
Getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land.
A city like New York alone sends out 3 million tons of residential and commercial waste a year; all this ends up in landfills around the U. S. and costs the country over $250 million. Currently, the average American wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia does, a 50 percent increase from what Americans did in the 1970s.
Noting that 1.3 billion metric tons of food is lost or wasted each year around the world, the United Nations started a campaign earlier this year to get each of us to be aware of our “food print.” The U.N.’s Think, Eat, Save campaign offers lots of concrete suggestions for reducing food waste: eating leftovers, asking for a doggie bag when you eat out and disregarding expiration dates on packaged foods in the U.S. as these are not federally regulated, but (except on certain baby foods) “are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality.”
The U. N. campaign also encourages going out of your way to buy “funny fruit” that might otherwise end up being dumped. These fruits and vegetables could be considered such “uglies” — why not seek out some like them the next time you shop?
No matter what your food looks on the outside, consumers should always know how these foods are produced, especially GE foods. Sign this petition today to ensure Congress passes corresponding legislation.
Photo of a multi-sectioned strawberry via Pete/Flickr
Photo of an eggplant resembling a banana via BeckyCortino/Flickr
Photo of a double-pointed carrot via AnneCN/Flickr
Photo of tomatoes that aren’t the same color as ketchup via Gary Stevens/Flickr
Photo Credit: Thinkstock