Our future lies with ugly food. Ugly food — wait, what’s ugly food? Chances are, you haven’t seen a really ugly piece of produce at the grocery store.
Because of the aesthetic standards of most food retailers in the industry, the chances of ugly food making it on the shelves are relatively slim. Therefore, up to 40% of fruits and vegetables end up as food waste — tossed away because they don’t meet market standards.
America finally recognized its food waste problem in 2015, one year after Europe launched its “year against food waste.”
As quoted from a particularly snarky lede in a NPR article, “Word that Americans throw away about one-third of our available food has been getting around.” One-third? Did you read that right? Yup — one-third of America’s edible food supply is simply tossed away, and if we look at food waste on a global scale, the number spikes up to 1.3 billion tons of waste. How can we solve that?
Solving Food Waste by Eating Ugly Food?
Simple — by eating ugly food. But by nature, us humans are selective beings. Our preference for whatever looks pleasing to the eye has become a part of our psychology and natural selection tool. From choosing partners to food, aesthetics matter a lot — even if we discount them as superficial.
A 2011 study suggests that our brain processes an object’s aesthetic value and sends signals to our body to react accordingly to that. It’s a classic survival-of-the-fittest reaction and is psychologically linked to our “survival advantage” in foods or “for the satisfaction of social needs.” Therefore, there’s already an unspoken set of visual criteria at play, even before the standards of the food retail industry.
Although our psychological visual judgments are a factor in food selections, we’re also extremely conditioned to certain food expectations. Ugly fruits and vegetables are not harmful to our health, but we just tend to avoid them because growing up, we were taught what a “typical” carrot looks like, or how peaches should be perfectly round and fuzzy. Eating ugly food, however, not only benefits the planet but also your wallet. Ugly food delivery services like Imperfect Produce, which is based in Northern California, delivers a box of produce that is 30 to 50 percent cheaper than at retail produce price!
In the U.S., there’s been a growing effort to integrate ugly fruits and vegetables into the aisles of our grocery stores. Whole Foods partnered with Imperfect Produce, an ugly produce delivery company, to sell fruits and veggies in select stores in spring 2016.
Hopefully, these actions will destroy the unknown stigma behind ugly food. They’re edible, and yes, you’re saving the environment too!