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Reducing food waste is a massive way to help our environment
Our fruit and vegetables, in the Western world, are often presented as being absolutely perfect – by our supermarkets in particular.
But this has serious consequences for our farmers, and for our environment. Food that doesn’t appear perfect is often wasted, literally ploughed back into the ground or tipped directly into landfill.
These are highly unethical and immoral things to be happening in our modern world.
By being prepared to buy so called “wonky” fruit and vegetables, as consumers we can put pressure on our supermarkets to treat food with the respect it deserves, and our supplying farmers too. If we can help to ensure this food is consumed in some way, rather than discarded, we will be:
- helping to keep farming sustainable
- keeping down the cost of production
- avoiding thousands of tons of landfill in the UK alone, and much more around the world
- reducing carbon emissions associated with production, transport and destruction of the food
- reducing chemical and fertiliser use
- acting more ethically and fairly
This is not about fruit and vegetables that are off or overripe, or past their sell by date, it is about preventing food destruction driven purely by appearance, and about food that supermarkets don’t think looks “good enough” for their displays.
How can we make the most of misshapen produce?
Supermarket chains Morrisons and Asda have promoted “wonky veg” initiatives, but more needs to be done, plus consumers (that’s us!) need to be aware of what can be done with this produce.
Actually, all of the discarded fruit and vegetables can be used in the normal way … just because a carrot is bent in two, or a potato is a rude shape, doesn’t affect cooking or taste.
All of this food can be served as normal, but if you really only want perfect carrots on your dinner plate, they can be cooked into soups, smoothies, burgers, pies, stews, traybakes, curries and so on, where the shape really just does not matter!
It is estimated (See How to cut down on food waste: wonky veg) that an incredible 20% to 40% of fruit and veg produced by UK farmers ends up wasted. Some is used for animal feed, some is ploughed back into the land, and some is sent to landfill. All this because supermarkets don’t want them. In one example, TV chef Jamie Oliver visited a Norfolk farm where up to 10 tonnes of misshapen veg were rejected on a weekly basis.
Supermarkets have tried in the past to justify the waste by saying consumers won’t buy it; for years we’ve been used to seeing fruit and veg of a standard shape, size and colour. You compare a blemish-free carrot with its crooked friend, and which are you more likely to choose?
The good news is that the misshapen fruit and veg taste just as good as their better-looking peers but can sometimes now be bought at a discount. Alternatively, you can buy at farm shops and markets, or even find organisations that specialise in distributing the wonky veg. Try searching in your browser for “wonky veg box” for example.
Why is this important?
We are stretching our planet’s ability to feed us all to the limit, and in overproducing in some areas we are polluting and damaging our ecosystems. We have to become more sustainable if we are to be able to continue to feed ourselves in the way we have become used to in developed countries.
We can no longer afford to refuse food simply because it does not look perfect. This doesn’t mean compromising on quality, nutrition, hygiene or taste. It just means being more open minded about the fact that veg is veg, whether perfectly shaped or not.
How can it be possible for us to continue destroying fruit and vegetables because of imperfections, and reconcile that with the fact that all around us – even in developed nations – people are hungry. Take action, open your mind to imperfectly shaped vegetables and you will be making a difference.