Sorting Potatoes and some thoughts about food waste

Yesterday, it was Irish Appreciation Day for me. I spent five hours digging out Purple Majesty potatoes from one of five rows of potatoes planted on the farm. By the end of the afternoon, I had gotten up close to 300 pounds of those purple gems. Then today, I spent nearly the same amount of time throwing a third of them away.  After all the washing and sorting those potatoes to get ready for market, I was left with just over 200 pounds.

The managers here refuse to let those 100 pounds go to waste. They spent money on the potato seeds, and the motto here is “Never waste capital.” The so-called seconds will be going to feed farm workers. But since the 10 of us can’t possibly eat all of that, the rest will be used as pig food.

So let’s think about that a minute. Roughly a third of the potatoes grown will never make it to a consumer. Of the 2/3 they will try to sell, not everything will be bought. And then what is sold, the consumer has the opportunity to waste. And by current standards, how much the consumer will waste is also significant.

This infograph is a break down of food waste in the United States.

This only accounts for the United States. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations estimates global food waste at 1.3 billion tonnes a year (Food Business News).

Food waste directly impacts the global economy to the tune of $750 billion. That figure does not account for the cost of consuming of resources such as water, as well as the green house gas emissions.

While the FAO attributes wood waste in developing countries to agricultural production, industrialized countries can improve the most in retail and consumer sector. This is especially true in both meat and fruit. While meat waste is relatively low, production is high in green house gas emissions, which makes any amount of waste expensive. Fruit often falls victim to cosmetic discrimination. Retailers and consumers both often reject fruit for surface blemishes.

So, what do we do with the fact that 40% of our food goes to waste, while 15% of families experience food insecurity at some point throughout the year? (

There are farms like Skipley Farm, that parley their food waste into other assets such as helping to produce animal protein. And there are organizations that seek to bring food “waste” to the hungry, like CItyHarvest in New York, among others.

On a consumer level, rethinking your food purchases, food choices, as well as examining these charities is a great way to help un-stagger food waste.


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