Which is worse- wasted food or food animals?

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

A November 2010 study by the George Morris Centre, a non-profit agri-food think tank, has found some alarming news about food.  Their unpublished study titled Food Waste in Canada, estimates that $27 billion (yes billion) worth of food finds its way into landfill and composting each year. I’ve read elsewhere that 30-40% of our food goes to waste. The blame, according to the research, is split evenly between consumers who throw out food at home and the food supply chain; from farms through to stores and restaurants.

My first thought when reading this news in the nation’s largest newspaper on the weekend, was how tragic considering how many go hungry in this country.  My next thought was how environmentally wrong this is.  And my final thought was how disrespectful and mis-focused our throw-away society has become, a waste not only of money but also of natural and human resources.

The article went on to explain that municipal composting has eased the guilt about our food waste but hasn’t reduced the amount of waste, or the problems waste creates. And indeed, the food supply chain shares half the blame, according to this study. But unlike consumers, the food supply chain is often forced by food safety and merchandizing laws, or consumer demand, to waste a lot of perfectly edible food. At the same time, unlike consumers, farms and food businesses face very real legislative and bureaucratic hurdles in trying to implement some of their waste reduction strategies. And sometimes you really can’t beat city hall. 

Meantime, in this shift to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, there has been a growing chorus about how wrong animal agriculture (and the meat, milk and eggs it provides us), is for the planet. Critics of animal agriculture make the often-spurious arguments that animal agriculture wastes resources that could go to feed the world’s hungry and has an “enormous” environmental footprint. It seems counter-intuitive, but animal agriculture can actually help feed more not less people by using “food waste” to produce food. Ironically, dealing with our waste by composting and landfill emits more greenhouse gases than producing beef. Never-the-less, “don’t eat meat” arguments conclude it is the most effective way to save the planet. My thought has always been that we would be far further ahead if we dealt with our own garbage cans first. Seems research studies are starting to back me up.

Until the next BLOG.
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Posted by OFAC on January 17th, 2011 :: Filed under Activism,Beef cattle,Feeding the world,Global Warming,Research,Vegetarian
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One Response to “Which is worse- wasted food or food animals?”

  1. A Beard
    January 19th, 2011

    Who knew?
    I’ve always tried to reduce my waste, never realizing just how much food we waste here in Canada. I eat meat but still feel that there is more the livestock industry can do to reduce its environmental footprint. However, until I read this blog I never considered the difficuties the meat industry has in reducing their contributions. Thanks for the food for thought.

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