Thursday, August 26, 2010

Viewing the produce department from the bottom up

I have been receiving two truckloads of vegetables and fruits, culled from area supermarket produce departments, and have been feeding them to my pigs.  Each truckload is roughly a full-sized dumptruck worth of food, and in a super market, the fruits and vegetables are often some of the most expensive food.  (Most expensive food:  We hear that all the time by people who complain about subsidized calories present in processed foods, mostly derived from corn.  )

This truckload is pretty typical.  We've all seen this in the average store; the cantaloupes and sweet corn, cherries and broccoli, watermelons.  Watching these piles of food arrive I'm curious if this happens at every supermarket around the country.   Each load I get from just 8 stores is between 3 and 5 tons of food. 

I'm going to figure that there's something like one grocery store for every 2,000 people in the USA.  There are about 300 million people in the USA now.  That means there are 150,000 grocery stores, give or take. 
If every one of those stores are throwing away 1 ton of food a week that's 150,000 TONS of food each week. 

Some of this food has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles. The oranges can't be grown in Washington State.  the papayas -- Mexico, Caribbean, Philippines.  Pineapples?  Hawaii maybe.   The corn has a good chance of being local, some of the vegetables -- tomatoes are probably from a few hundred miles away at the most. 

This berkshire pig is enjoying produce from Costa Rica

I feel like I'm doing my part by keeping this out of the landfill, and I'm glad that the grocery stores are doing their part.  I think that this is a good use of the produce.  I am just a little overwhelmed that there is this much human food wasted in our food distribution system. 


Leslie said...

Sadly, in many rural areas the landfill is precisely where this stuff goes. Restaurant food waste is tremendous. In one small bistro I worked at, we would throw away three 50 gallon garbage cans full of half eaten, overcooked, undercooked, rotten produce, breads and meats every day. The owner when approached by a rancher about the overflow became angry that the rancher was trying to scam him out of the garbage. I have found that this is a common reaction (in my area) with restaurant owners and small grocery owners.

StefRobrts said...

This seems like something that could be organized all over the country - giving a grocery store a dumpster just for produce, then weekly going around and collecting them and redistributing them to farmers who can put them to good use.

Rose said...

We can't get supermarkets to give away their produce here. One said they had to photograph everything and then put it in the dumpster to make sure that employees weren't taking it home or giving away the good stuff. Others won't even take the discussion that far. Some fruit stands will let us pick up their leftovers.

It is frustrating, just knowing that many places rather let fruit and veggies rot than let them be used.

Jan said...

My experience has been much like Rose's - stores (or restaurants - also tons of waste from salad bars etc) refuse to allow it and would rather throw it out. Even when offered to supply containers and remove it daily! Large places (Pizza Hut etc) must follow corporate policy but small places haven't been interested either. How to you approach them to arrange this? Would be very interested in offering chickens a 'garden buffet' too but it is a tough battle.

Steven Romero said...

I'd be concerned about non-food items being tossed in the produce dump. Has this been an issue?

Bruce King said...

Theres a pretty constant low level of plastic and cardboard trash. The cardboard is no big deal; the pigs tear it into little bits and it composts. The plastic I pick out by hand. It's usually well-smeared with food by the time I get it, and the recycling folks won't take it, so I end up making a trip to the landfill.

Other than the plastic wrappers, I haven't noticed many non-food items get into the bins. When it does it's usually because they left their dumpster unlocked and someone tossed household trash into it. Annoying.

Land Source Container Service Inc. said...

I can't get over the fact of how wrong it is that we overproduce and then this happens on a daily basis, and then god knows where the left overs go. Its sickening, the amount we waste.

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Rubbish Removal NYC