Part of the dilemma with food waste stems from a cultural perception that food has to look perfect in order to be edible. This quest for perfect produce compels farmers to leave vast quantities of food in the field and grocers unwilling to display items with unusual shapes or other imperfections. Consumers play a role in this trend as well, refusing to buy produce that does not appeal to their visual ideal, and tossing out produce at home that has aged, browned, or wilted a bit.
A lot of wonderful, tasty, healthy, usable produce simply goes straight to waste…because of its looks.
This is a fascinating phenomenon that may have roots in our modern, photo-shopped unrealistic perceptions of beauty in other areas of our culture, or technological advances that have given us good-looking food from around the world in all seasons. We have also become accustomed to packaged, processed foods that look absolutely perfect…and identical…all the time. They may not taste great, or be very healthy, but they look good! And we seem to have fallen for that ideal.
Looking at the big picture, we see that grocery stores in some areas discard billions of pounds of wholesome food because of minor, unimportant flaws, while other areas have little or no access to affordable, nutritious food and people go hungry.
Something to consider this week is the notion that just because something looks different, doesn’t mean it’s better or worse…it’s just different! And fruits and vegetables, being straight from nature, just like us, are imperfect from time to time…and still wonderful.
Check out this Instagram site for some humorous images of what might not be on your grocery shelf, but could be perfectly tasty on your plate.