The Big Waste

Did anyone see Food Network’s show, ‘The Big Waste,” earlier this month? Celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell, and Alex Guarnaschelli were tasked with making a dinner with food that was still safely edible but considered to be ‘garbage’ by its source. They were divided into teams (boys against girls) and challenged to come up with a multi-course gourmet meal within 48 hours. Some of the statistics I heard while watching:

  • one market in NYC creates 14 garbage bags full of blemished food each week,
  • 40-50% of what’s grown on an orchard goes to waste because it is not perfect looking,
  • In the US, 5 billion eggs per year are disposed of because they aren’t the right size or color to be sold in a carton.

From the various postings on the web, it looks like people won’t get another chance to see this show. That’s too bad. If the surprise shown by these celebrity chefs is real, imagine how many people within and outside of the food industry are unaware of the amount of waste that occurs before food gets to our own homes or markets.

I can see where an alternative market could be created in which this ‘waste’ food could be sold or donated. A new chain of markets can sell us blemished apples and parsnips at a lower price, multi-sized multi-colored eggs by weight, or the fattier ends of meats with suggestions on how to bet use them. Vendors of all types could change their product displays in order to present fragile fresh foods in such a way that we don’t damage it as we rummage through it. Food could be donated to food banks or soup kitchens to feed the poor. The public could become more educated about what those “sell by” dates really mean so that we know what foods really need to be discarded and what just has less than perfect flavor.

I’m sure there are regulations that businesses have to adhere to for their own liability so that some food is always going to go to waste. And bigger changes need to be made to influence the social factors involved. But I know I could be more educated about what is safe to eat in order to make a change at the personal level. When they showed the tomatoes with the cracks in them and said they were fine to eat, I was a little surprised. If the calendar shows a date beyond what’s on my yogurt, is it just less tasty or will I get sick?

Back to the show…were you wondering who won the competition? The boys. Here’s hoping our boys the Patriots can win it today!


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