BANFF, Alta. — Every person in Canada and the United States tosses out 1,400 calories a day.
Animal scientist Brad Morgan, head of Zoetis’s food safety division, told the Alberta Beef Industry Conference held in Banff Feb. 20-22 that food waste is nothing new. However, changes are needed if the world hopes to feed another three billion people by 2050.
“We need more technology, but we also need to be more frugal.”
He said 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year.
Food is regularly thrown out at home as well as at grocery stores and restaurants because it was left on the plate, had blemishes or had gone bad. Produce is often left in the field because its size was inconsistent or had other flaws.
Twelve percent of meat, half the leafy vegetables and one-third of bread and vegetables are discarded.
“We take things for granted when it comes to food,” Morgan said.
North Americans are more blasé about throwing out food because it is relatively cheap, he added.
“We are spoiled rotten consumers. They don’t understand many of the things it takes to produce a product and put it on a supermarket shelf on a pretty economical basis.”
Americans use 7.5 percent of their disposable income to buy food while Canadians spend eight to nine percent and consumers in Europe and Asia spend 25 to 38 percent.
Morgan said the world already produces enough food to feed its current population and the expected growth of an extra three billion by 2050.
“We just need to try and curb the waste,” he said.
Morgan said corporations are looking for ways to slow the waste.
For example, they use radio frequency identification to track food and reduce spoilage, improve quality and address traceability requirements.
This has reduced 15 percent of food waste in Walmart stores, he added.
He said consumers often buy too much because it is on sale. Tesco’s, a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, offers coupons when it has buy one and get one free deals. It causes less waste and people are likely to return to shop at the store.
Morgan said 300 American universities have eliminated trays from their cafeterias and food service outlets. Students receive a plate of food rather than dishing up themselves, which can encourage them to take too much.
“It saves about 6,000 pounds of solid waste a week and less energy and cuts down on the cleaning supplies,” Morgan said.