Why Aren’t We Eating Ugly Produce?

You know that food waste is bad for the planet and for your wallet, but one of the major causes of waste in our food system is something you might not expect.

Yes, we waste a lot of food by tossing leftovers and letting food spoil in the fridge, but before most of our food reaches store shelves, it has to look the part. Wait….what?

It’s true! Grocery stores won’t sell ugly produce, because consumers don’t tend to buy ugly produce. That means an apple that’s a little misshapen or an onion that has a spot on it ends up in the compost heap or the landfill, rather than at the store, and all of that wasted food drives up food prices by decreasing supply.

We already don’t produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet suggested daily serving amounts for everyone, and at the same time we’re further reducing access to produce by tossing fruits and veggies just because they’re not picture perfect.

What’s mind-blowing about this problem is that ugly produce is no less healthy than the perfect-looking fruits and veggies that make it to the grocery store. One of my favorite ugly veggies is what my friend Rob calls a “pants carrot.” You can see a beautiful pants carrot – which you’d never find at a conventional grocery store – pictured at the top of this page.

So, what can we, as consumers, do about this huge waste of food? We only have so much power, but there are ways that we can keep ugly produce out of the landfill and put it onto our plates. Check out how on the next page!

Image Credit: Photo by Becky Striepe

Tristram Stuart knows a thing or two about ugly food and solving our food waste problem. Check out his experiences with the food system in his inspiring TED Talk:

What You Can Do

Supporting local farmers is a great way to stop the food waste problem. When you shop at the farmers market or subscribe to a CSA, you get access to that ugly produce, which is no less healthy than the pretty fruits and veggies you’re used to seeing on store shelves.

You can also help out at your local food bank and encourage them to team up with local farms to take their ugly produce and get it to people who need it.

Not everyone is going to like this last suggestion, but cutting back on the meat and dairy in your diet is an excellent way to reduce food waste. It takes 30 pounds of corn to produce a single pound of meat. That’s terribly inefficient. If we got those grains directly to people, think of how many hungry mouths we could feed!

Can you think of other ways to reduce food waste between the farm and store shelves? Let’s keep the discussion going in the comments!

10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home
Why Aren’t We Addressing the Food Waste Problem?
The Case for Eating Ugly Fruits & Vegetables

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber10 months ago

Mmm, I'd love a supermarket to sell yummy uglies!

Sarah Baker
Sarah Baker2 years ago

Apparently red delicious apples grown in Illinois are super tasty, but not pretty. Notice how all the ones in the store taste a bit mealy? I'll take flavor over looks any time!!,

Bill and Katie D.
Katie D.2 years ago

As long as they haven't been sprayed to make them look fresh to look better!
Watch for roadside markets or local farmers!
Scrub and they are just fine!
Thank You

Michael H.
Mike H.2 years ago

Ugly is good!

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey2 years ago

As far as the ugly produce, it is not bad inherently, but it can.does disguise bad(gone bad) produce. For example. When I look at oranges, I want to buy ones where the skin has minimal dimpling.

The smoother the rind, the juicier the orange will be. Whereas a heavily dimpled rind could be juicy, but it could also be a sign that the fruit inside has dried out. Have you ever eaten an orange only to discover you can't eat the whole thing because half of it is dried out, bitter fruit?

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey2 years ago

With the reference to transferring the corn eaten by cows to people

" If we got those grains directly to people, think of how many hungry mouths we could feed!"
: And all those people would have pellagra and their brains would be dying. Pellagra: A serious nutritional shortfall disease when one consumes predominantly one grain-corn. Steer don't get pellagra.

Mary S.
Mary S.2 years ago

Our food never has the time to go bad. We only prepare as much as we need to eat within a day, and fruits or veggies don't last long around us.

Jessica Sutton
Jessica S.2 years ago

Thanks! I love Care2 for always planting little seeds in my head...

When I am at a grocery store I may start seeking out the "ugly" produce.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Natasha Salgado
Natasha Salgado2 years ago

Unbelievable this goes on when the starving have nothing...