waste not, want not

I had a nagging doubt in my mind after finishing the previous post on this blog. it wasn't that I doubted what I had written, nor did I question the logic behind the argument that food has the potential to become a hot commodity ...then at some point over the weekend it came to me what it was.

food wastage

i hate wasting food. I credit my mother, who would make us sit at the table until it was all gone (I did however, win the great irish stew standoff of 1979), for instilling the belief that food wastage is innately wrong; I feel a twinge of guilt whenever I throw out food, even the furry stuff.

Not that I throw out very much food at all. most winter weekends you will see me making "clean out the fridge soup' to make space for the fresh purchases and in summer it becomes "clean out the fridge antipasto" whereby the contents gets thrown on the bbq, chargrilled and packaged up in containers with a bit of EVOO and possibly some herbs. these get tossed through salads, used for pizza and pasta toppings and given to friends and family (who give me the impression that they think this is rather delightful).

having started a business focused on fresh food and a no/lo inventory policy, the potential issue of food wastage would rear its ugly head. at the start excess was treated the same as within the domestic kitchen. however along the way there are points of critical mass where purchases exceed sales owing to the format that produce is available in, and these would need to be dealt with.

at restaurant 2007 in Sydney, we discovered Ozharvest, and as soon as we hit "critical mass" they were at the ready to accept and redistribute any excesses that we may have had to worthy causes, and whilst my current contribution is tiny, ozharvest have donors that are far more substantial that my fledgling business.

On the other hand, the businesses that do support this activity are miniscule in comparison to the waste that occurs en masse on a daily basis in FMCG companies.

My experience with one supermarket chain is that "perished product" must be dispensed with - mind you, what I discard you'd pick it out as the freshest on the shelf in their store. Of course, dumpster divers will still do exactly that, wash off the putrid bits and eat it. However the standard line of the supermarkets has always been that they are not prepared to open themselves up to the risk of legal liability for anyone consuming their "waste".

similarly whilst consulting at a major snackfood company, the issue of obsolescence of stock came into issue - product must be delivered no less than 12 weeks before the "best before date" and is further complicated by the bespoke format packs that each retail chain sells "exclusively". Ordinarily there is 16 weeks between manufacture commitment and the best before date and the snackfood company forecasts required production, without any commitment from the supermarket that they will, indeed, purchase that amount of product before it becomes obsolete under their own terms.

As a result of obsolescence there is product wastage as product cannot be on-sold if it is an exclusive format or will not be on-sold as the manufacturer is not prepared to release inferior product to the market. It won't get given to charity either for product quality and legal liability reasons. In this case, the manufacturer was pleased that they found an alternate solution. a nearby dairy farmer decided that he would take the product to feed to his cows, and the snackfood company was therefore able to overcome the expense of disposing of the goods.

It is probable an increasing demand for food owing to an expanding global population, and a decreasing amount of natural resource to produce such food, counterbalanced with advances in technology and sustainable farming practices will be an issue. At this point in time however, not only is the population at large ignorant of this, but continues on a daily basis to support wasteful and unsustainable behaviour.


Civil Liability Act 2002: protection from civil liability in respect of food donations

dumpster diving:
abc backyard stories


Great Big Veg Challenge said...

It is a complicated issue isnt it -particularly because we live in such a litigous world.
Have you heard of the Freegan movement - if you put it in google all these sites appear. Its one response to the whole issue of waste.
Charlotte at Great Big Veg challenge

grocer said...

I have heard of "Freegans" and an episode of one of our weekly tv "dramas" even featured a freegan recently - it's not for me, I am way to fussy about the quality of my food.

on the other hand there are hungry and needy in this world and if society wastes food fit for human consumption, will we then turn around and complain if our resources become limited in the future. I think many will!

thanks for stopping by - you have won my admiration with your GBV challenge!

purple goddess said...

When I see what is in the "Dumpster" behind the Dromana IGA, I am sorely tempted to go for a wee dive myself.

Seriously, tubs and TUBS of fresh produce. And, for someone who "sauces" the nastiest tomatoes I can, for my sugo, it makes me weep.

pg (who also won the Great Brussels Sprout Face-Off of 1973)

t h e - g o b b l e r said...

Check out freegan.info/ for more info & also therewas a doco made about 'gleaning'in Europe. These were pople who came & collected all the veggies & fruit that were not harvested for various resaons but still good enough to consume.

Squishy said...

I have only just recently started a sales rep position in food distribution and I was shocked at how much food people waste on a regular basis. I visit restaurants, all sorts of places including our warehouse and the wastage is massive. It makes me sad. I think educating people is key.