We Americans waste over a quarter of all our food. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I think of all the fruits and vegetables I buy that rot, or bread that gets moldy before I can eat it. And then there's all the food that gets tossed from restaurants and groceries.
It takes about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to grow, harvest, preserve, package and transport the U.S. food supply. So wasting food means wasting energy.
How much? A study published in this month's issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology found out: roughly 350 million barrels of oil, or more than 2 quadrillion British thermal units of energy.
Wasted milk, cheese and butter as well as that pesky produce rotting in refrigerators represent the biggest shares of the wasted energy. We also throw out as much as a third of all the fats and sugars we otherwise crave, which, I suppose, keeps the obesity epidemic from being even worse than it is.
Of course, figuring out how to stop all this food waste is a complex policy question and beyond the scope of this particular study. But the research reveals that less profligate agricultural production could save more energy than we’d gain by producing ethanol or even opening new areas to offshore drilling.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]