Friday, November 27, 2009

Pig Nation: Americans Waste 40 Percent Of Food Produced Here

By Manifesto Joe

Here's a day-after-Thanksgiving thought. According to a new study, 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is thrown out. The waste, per person, has gone up by 50 percent since 1974.

Here's the news link.

It's bad enough to have wasted 26 or 27 percent of U.S. food back in '74 -- that's ridiculous, considering how many people in the world were hungry then. The amount of hunger is at least as bad nowadays, and stands to get worse with climate change.

As much swinelike behavior as there is in America, what with people rushing into retail stores to trample the help to death on "Black Friday" (see my posts of about this time last year), this seems to me the most criminally swinelike thing of all.

It would be hard to believe that people act like this if it wasn't so evident in public situations. Where I work, we have a community refrigerator, and one has to be careful using it because of the quantity of leftovers, and even the newly purchased food, that is forgotten, sits in the box for weeks, and rots. Some of us there are vigilantes, throwing out spoiled food to make room for the fresh and get rid of the rancid smells. But, this has to be a large number of our employees who are guilty of this negligence, because the problem is so pervasive, stubborn and recurrent.

For one thing, with the U.S. economy in the tank as it is, it's astonishing that a lot of people even think they can afford to be so wasteful. Most Americans only 75 years ago, during the Great Depression, wouldn't have dreamed of it. What kind of transformation has happened, in what is historically such a short time?

Perhaps there is some cultural element involved. I haven't had a lot of experience with people from other cultures, but what I've seen gives me the impression that they eat leftovers and try not to overbuy. "It's a sin to waste food," I once heard a young woman from Germany say.

Why do I feel this way about it, as a baby boomer, a member of the most pampered generation in American history?

Well, I wasn't typical of my generation. My folks weren't well-off to begin with, and my dad got sick with a terminal illness and had to go on disability when I was 11. Food simply wasn't wasted in our house unless it was so far-gone as to be a health risk.

I remember eating a lot of hamburger, cheap chicken, pasta, potatoes, canned tuna, salmon patties, white-trash beans and cornbread, canned or frozen vegetables and fruit, homemade sandwiches, stew and such -- steak was a rare Sunday luxury. Fish? Other than what came out of cans, that was Mrs. Paul's sticks with some ketchup, or occasionally some catfish that my grandfather caught in a nearby lake.

Leftovers were refrigerated and eaten the next day. There was a lot of cold cereal and skim milk for breakfast. Our vegetables often came from a large backyard garden. This was South Texas -- for a time we had a big orange tree in the back yard, and it was my job get up on the tree and pick the oranges for fresh juice.

It wasn't quite the Depression during my small-town '60s childhood. I never went hungry, and no, I never had to walk more than maybe a third of a mile to school. But the lesson was never lost on me that one should never, ever take eating for granted.

I suppose there's no way to legally bust the kind of piglike hominids who commit this waste, but it could certainly be made into something socially unacceptable. With all the social pressure that's been brought to bear on the slinking minority that U.S. cigarette addicts have become, one would think that this wouldn't be a very hard follow-up.

If it were up to me, I'd make it something thought of as on a par with drunken driving or domestic violence. It does unspeakable harm to many -- but the perpetrators aren't compelled to look upon their victims in court, or in the morgue.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Jack Jodell said...

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'til it's gone?"

Manifesto Joe, you have pointed out a shameful tendency of our people. We are definitely wasteful, and nor just with food. Look on the freeway as you head to work every morning: 98-99% of the vehicles on the road have but one occupant, and out on the open road, hardly anybody drives the speed limit. We waste fuel at an unbelievable rate. We leave rooms but keep the lights on. Go to any restaurant and look at the oversized poortions served. Many people don't bother to take a box home; they leave what they don't eat and it is thrown away.

Our wasteful nature is something we should all be greatly ashamed of, and make a conscious effort to do much, much better. Thank you, Manifesto Joe, for this very necessary reminder!

Marc McDonald said...

America's pig-like tendency to waste food (and everything else) will be coming to an end in the not-too-far-away future.
The cheap food we've enjoyed in our era is an unsustainable trend. It was possible because of three factors:
1. The Green Revolution (which in turn was powered by:
2. Cheap oil.
3. Oceans of cheap money, flowing in from East Asia's central banks that funded the whole American orgy of reckless consumption.
Note that all three of these factors are likely to end soon.
Cheap oil, for example, will soon be as extinct as smoking-friendly waiting rooms at hospitals. Peak Oil trends will see to that.
And the cheap oceans of money that've been flowing in from East Asia will soon be a thing of the past: it's simply unsustainable.
Most Americans are simply unaware of the sweeping changes that are about to hit our society with all the impact of a locomotive.
The orgy of reckless consumption is coming to an end.

Manifesto Joe said...

Thanks for stopping by, guys. It's weird, this system is recording only one comment, when there are actually two. We'll see if it records a third one now.

SJ said...

@Manifesto Joe-
here's the real comment number three...
I agree with your disgust at wastefulness when it comes to food.
It's unforgivable when you see what's still happening around the world.
There's a big reason in the shift in mentality in America... the more food you waste, the more you have to buy.
The makers and distributors of food encourage its devaluation so that we'll keep consuming, and although it sounds counter-intuitive, think about the same logic behind buying a crappy car: It doesn't last, it doesn't work well, it's not efficient... what the hell? there'll be a model next year, so we'll all trade up to that.
We don't think about what's on the end of our forks and what had to be done (and to whom) to put it there... all that advertising, processing, laboratory research, habitat destruction all so we can waste food and buy more of it.
This wasteful inertia is what keeps the transnational food manufacturers going.
It's the reason why kids are not taught that a 99 cent hamburger at McDonald's actually costs FAR more than 99 cents.
It's the reason why many people today think of food as disposable.

Oso said...

A good post,i agree completely.seeing people nibble at food at the mall,throwing out so much food-it's always pissed me off. When they do it so matter-of-factly,it's obvious they see nothing wrong with it.

We always,always took home leftovers wherever we ate.Our childhoods sound similar too,we weren't poor but couldn't afford to toss,clothes, whatever.

Seeing trash cans each week filled to overflowing-there's three of us,unless we forgot a week or did some spring cleaning the trash can is NEVER all the way full.Yet I see neighbors, every week the trash is filled to overflowing,the top never down.So much crap.

Manifesto Joe said...

Thanks for stopping by, SJ and Oso.

Actually, this post wasn't universally popular, so I really appreciate the more positive feedback. I appear to have made an enemy of one of the regular posters at After I submitted the post for possible publication there on the main page (didn't quite make it -- got 9 buzzes, needed 2 or 3 more) this guy slung shit all over it, and me. Well, I've never been inclined to back down from a fight, so I took on the schoolyard bully and bitch-slapped him. But it may prove costly -- that's the risk you take when you put your opinions on public display, I guess.