What if each of us went to the store, bought two bags of groceries, and immediately discarded one? In a sense, that's what happens every day. There are no reliable estimates of how much food is wasted in the U.S. from field to plate, but the most educated guesses range between 40 and 50 percent.
Food waste has significant environmental, economic, and humanitarian consequences—not to mention a food lover's genuine disappointment when seeing a forgotten basket of once-beautiful berries in the back of a refrigerator. It is a subject worth more serious attention than it generally gets. But it's not simply a consumer awareness issue, as is often thought. Consumers are but a part of the equation.
Measure the waste in two identically staffed commercial kitchens that prepare 2,500 meals a day and the results could be radically different. If one chef cuts whole fruit, fillets fish, and uses shell eggs (versus using canned or pre-chopped produce, pre-battered fillets, and liquid/shelled eggs) the first kitchen will show more waste at the end of the day. The second chef's waste is simply occurring earlier in the supply chain.
For the second year in a row at Bon Appétit Management Company, we implemented a program to measure how much food is wasted in our cafés and to focus on reducing it. Part of our Low Carbon Diet Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food service operations by 25 percent over five years, food waste is a big area of opportunity. One-third of all methane emissions in the U.S. emanate from landfills, where rotting food is a major culprit.