WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 – The United States wasted about 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of its food supply in 2010 with a value of about $161.1 billion, according to a report released Monday by USDA’s Economic Research Service.
Retail-level food losses represented 10 percent, or 43 billion pounds, and consumer-level losses represented 21 percent, or 90 billion pounds, of the available food supply of 430 billion pounds of food in 2010, the study said.
The report said the top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish (30 percent, $48 billion); vegetables (19 percent, $30 billion); and dairy products (17 percent, $27 billion). The total amount of food loss represented 387 billion calories, the report said.
The study said, the average amount of food loss in 2010 per American was 429 pounds, of which 139 pounds at the retail level and 290 pounds at the consumer level went uneaten. At the consumer level, 59 pounds of vegetables, 52 pounds of dairy products, and 41 pounds of meat, poultry, and fish per capita from the food supply in 2010 went uneaten.
The losses represent the amount of edible food, post-harvest, that is available for human consumption but is not consumed for any reason, the study said. It includes cooking loss and natural shrinkage; loss from mold, pests, or inadequate climate control; plate waste; and other causes. Further, the study said it includes edible items going unconsumed, such as food discarded by retailers due to blemishes or plate waste discarded by consumers.
“Food loss is becoming an increasingly important topic both domestically and internationally,” the report said. “Better estimates of the amount and value of food loss, including food waste, could help serve as quantitative baselines for policymakers and the food industry to set targets and develop initiatives, legislation, or policies to minimize food waste, conserve resources, and improve human nutrition.”
The report said reducing food loss would likely reduce food prices in the United States and the world, though the effects depend on the nature of supply, including import and export considerations.
EPA said food waste accounted for 34 million tons, nearly 14 percent, out of the 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2010 as measured before recycling.
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