Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

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Overview

The true cost of what the global food industry throws away.
With shortages, volatile prices and nearly one billion people hungry, the world has a food problem—or thinks it does. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard up to half of their food—enough to feed all the world's hungry at least three times over. Forests are destroyed and nearly one tenth of the West's greenhouse gas emissions are released growing food that will never be ...

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Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

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Overview

The true cost of what the global food industry throws away.
With shortages, volatile prices and nearly one billion people hungry, the world has a food problem—or thinks it does. Farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard up to half of their food—enough to feed all the world's hungry at least three times over. Forests are destroyed and nearly one tenth of the West's greenhouse gas emissions are released growing food that will never be eaten. While affluent nations throw away food through neglect, in the developing world crops rot because farmers lack the means to process, store and transport them to market.
But there could be surprisingly painless remedies for what has become one of the world's most pressing environmental and social problems. Waste traces the problem around the globe from the top to the bottom of the food production chain. Stuart’s journey takes him from the streets of New York to China, Pakistan and Japan and back to his home in England. Introducing us to foraging pigs, potato farmers and food industry CEOs, Stuart encounters grotesque examples of profligacy, but also inspiring innovations and ways of making the most of what we have. The journey is a personal one, as Stuart is a dedicated freegan, who has chosen to live off of discarded or self-produced food in order to highlight the global food waste scandal.
Combining front-line investigation with startling new data, Waste shows how the way we live now has created a global food crisis—and what we can do to fix it.

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Editorial Reviews

New Scientist
“In Waste, Tristram Stuart...ingeniously unites many food scandals that often do not get the attention they deserve...Usefully, Stuart offers examples of what we could be doing better, from processing technologies to offal sausages.”
The Sunday Times [London]
Jaw-dropping ...compelling—a must-read... Stuart has an unanswerable case.— Bee Wilson
Sunday Telegraph [London]
“Book of the Week: Stuart’s book is passionate, closely argued and guaranteed to make the most manic consumer peer guiltily into the recesses of their fridge.”
Scotland on Sunday
“An extremely thought-provoking, passionate study which could make even the biggest skeptic think twice before putting the leftovers in the bin.”
The Sun [London]
“Tristram Stuart lifts the lid on the obscene levels of produce ending up in landfill....Read it and weep.”
The Land
This is a first class book, as copiously referenced as any academic report, yet both blunt and incisive—the sort of book one can expect only from someone who gets his hands mucky as well as inky.— Simon Fairlie
The Independent [UK]
This is one of those books that everybody should read....It may well change your view of the way we treat food forever.— Paul Kingsnorth
BBC Focus Magazine
Deftly illuminates the global consequences of our choices about what to eat.— Tom Standage
Seven
Passionate, closely argued and guaranteed to make the most manic consumer peer guiltily into the recesses of their fridge.— John Preston
Booklist
Every day all around the globe, appallingly enormous amounts of otherwise edible food go to waste even while humans are starving. Stuart aims to educate people about where such waste occurs, how much of it there is, and what possible steps can be undertaken to reduce it substantially if not eliminate it altogether.... Notes and a huge bibliography lead readers to additional resources on this pressing environmental issue.— Mark Knoblauch
Bill McKibben
“The world faces incredibly difficult challenges—we simply can't afford the kind of crazy waste Tristram Stuart uncovers and describes in this beautifully reported work. It's nauseating in places, but ultimately hopeful: if we got serious about preventing this waste, we might just find the margin we need to deal with our biggest problems.”
Bee Wilson - The Sunday Times [London]
“Jaw-dropping ...compelling—a must-read... Stuart has an unanswerable case.”
Simon Fairlie - The Land
“This is a first class book, as copiously referenced as any academic report, yet both blunt and incisive—the sort of book one can expect only from someone who gets his hands mucky as well as inky.”
Paul Kingsnorth - The Independent [UK]
“This is one of those books that everybody should read....It may well change your view of the way we treat food forever.”
Tom Standage - BBC Focus Magazine
“Deftly illuminates the global consequences of our choices about what to eat.”
John Preston - Seven
“Passionate, closely argued and guaranteed to make the most manic consumer peer guiltily into the recesses of their fridge.”
Mark Knoblauch - Booklist
“Every day all around the globe, appallingly enormous amounts of otherwise edible food go to waste even while humans are starving. Stuart aims to educate people about where such waste occurs, how much of it there is, and what possible steps can be undertaken to reduce it substantially if not eliminate it altogether.... Notes and a huge bibliography lead readers to additional resources on this pressing environmental issue.”
Publishers Weekly
Stuart (The Bloodless Revolution) writes of the perilous illusion of abundance and how countries can reduce food waste by accurately examining how much they toss away due to poor storage or unused surplus—and why. European and American food manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers throw away between 30% and 50% of their food supply—enough to feed the world's hungry. Waste also occurs as a result of inadequate harvesting and farming techniques, prevalent in countries like Pakistan, where the author examines the need for better grain harvesting and land cultivation. Stuart's thoughtful illumination of the problem and his proposed solutions are bound to get even the most complacent citizen thinking about how slowly wilting vegetables might have a second life. Simply growing more food, Stuart argues, is not necessarily the answer. Agriculture takes up space and often results in deforestation. If rich countries could cut waste by treating food more carefully, while developing countries gained the equipment necessary to improve their output, he contends, a significant reduction in global food waste—and even global hunger—could be achieved. Stuart's brief is passionately argued and rigorously researched, and is an important contribution to the discussion of sustainability. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Compelling and thought-provoking, with the power to change a reader's daily habits, this book, first published in the United Kingdom, offers a simple thesis: wasting food wreaks environmental havoc and contributes to global hunger. To argue his point, historian/activist Stuart (The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times) focuses primarily on the "food profligacy" of developed nations, exploring a range of topics from food manufacturing policies to the ethics of biofuel development. The case study of the waste produced by British supermarkets is particularly fascinating. Occasionally, the text feels imbalanced, with a lengthy chapter devoted to reintroducing the practice of swill feeding, while little attention is paid to proper food handling and storage. VERDICT Stuart is an impassioned writer who pairs quirky personal anecdotes with alarming statistics to craft an irrefutable argument. Although some of Stuart's suggestions for addressing food waste are directed toward the general public, this work is most suitable for academic readers, who will appreciate his detailed research and extensive bibliography. Stuart's highly readable study may also appeal to well-informed general readers interested in food policy.—Kelsy Peterson, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
School Library Journal
Adult/High School—Stuart looks at the amount of food countries currently waste, why it is happening, and how the world can reduce it. Although many of the author's examples and statistics come from the UK and Europe, he does try to bring in a global perspective whenever possible. He supplements the facts with his personal experiences as a "freegan" in the UK. The first section begins with the author's path to writing Waste before focusing on the consumer side of the problem, looking at how supermarkets and restaurants dispose of their waste, and how individuals buy more than they need and end up throwing away a large portion of it. The second section examines how produce, fish, and meat are wasted before they even reach supermarkets and restaurants. The third part looks at ways that we can reduce waste by providing examples of good practices in smaller countries and tips for improvement at all levels. The book contains a plethora of supporting material. It is well written and would appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the movie Food Inc. and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (Penguin, 2007), and who is interested in looking at the other end of our food problem.—Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH
Kirkus Reviews
A useful account of how we waste food. British author Stuart (The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times, 2007) knows firsthand that in one day a supermarket in a major city can throw out enough food to feed 100 people. A practitioner of the anti-consumerist "freegan" lifestyle, he has salvaged discarded, unspoiled food from store dumpsters in many countries. Here he shows how developed nations treat food as a "disposable commodity" at every step of the journey from farm to dinner table. In the United States alone, "around 50 per cent of all food is wasted." Farmers discard misshapen produce; fishermen throw back fish that are too small or the wrong species (killing most in the process). Supermarkets overstock to keep their shelves full and ensure they always have shoppers' favorite products; others simply predict sales badly. Consumers overbuy out of a "primeval hoarding instinct" and discard about one quarter of their food purchases in the form of leftovers or unopened packages. If all the waste stopped, Stuart argues, it would free up food for the world's hungry and reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture that contribute to global warming. The global impact is such that the UN has called for a halving of food waste by 2025. Thus far, few governments and industries have acted. Drawing on interviews and travels in many countries, the author explores diverse aspects of the global food problem, including the effects of growing wasted food on the earth's water, land and other resources, and the post-harvest losses of food in developing countries that occur for lack of processing and other technologies. Arguing that much waste isavoidable, Stuart outlines numerous steps than can be taken, from more mindful shopping by affluent consumers to redistribution of supermarket surpluses to the poor. He finds models for action in several Asian nations, including Japan, where the concept of mottaiai, which condemns waste, is reflected in a 2001 law requiring food businesses to recycle their food waste. Occasionally rambling but rewarding reading on a worldwide crisis.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393068368
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/12/2009
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Tristram Stuart has been a freelance writer for Indian newspapers, a project manager in Kosovo and a prominent critic of the food industry. He has made regular contributions to television documentaries, radio and newspapers on the social and environmental aspects of food. His first book, The Bloodless Revolution—‘magnificently detailed and wide-ranging’ (New Yorker)—was published in 2007, and Waste in 2009. A graduate of Cambridge University, he lives in England, where he rears pigs, chickens and bees.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgements xi

Part 1 Perishing Possessions

1 Liber-ate 3

2 Supermarkets 24

3 Manufacturers 42

4 Selling the Sell-By Mythology 60

5 Watching Your Wasteline 68

6 Losing Ground: Some Environmental Impacts of Waste 86

Part 2 Squandered Harvests

7 Farming: Potatoes Have Eyes 99

8 Fish: The Scale of Waste 124

9 Meat: Offal isn't Awful 139

10 Moth and Mould: Waste in a Land of Hunger 148

11 The Evolutionary Origins of Surplus 169

12 Adding It All Up and Asking... 'What if?' 184

Part 3 Where There's Muck There's Brass

13 Reduce: Food is for Eating 199

14 Redistribute: The Gleaners 220

15 Recycle: Compost and Gas 232

16 Omnivorous Brethren: Pigs and Us 243

17 Islands of Hope: Japan, Taiwan and South Korea 260

18 Action Plan: A Path to Utrophia 286

Afterword 294

Appendix: Graphs, Tables, Maps and Data 299

Abbreviations 313

Notes 315

Bibliography 383

Index 433

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    This will change your attitude about food.

    Everything we know about food waste can be found in this book. It is an absolute must read. Most of us have no idea how much food is wasted on the farm, in the stores, and in our homes. For every head of lettuce you buy about two more wasted away in the process.... and just think about how much wilted lettuce you throw out each year! Do yourself and the world a favour and read this book.

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