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The Big Waste....waste of time.

Just saw The Big waste. I was so insulted. My husband went to culinary school, were he told me the chefs forced them to go into a dumpster, to show them how much is wasted, every day. These chefs acted so surprised about the waste. Are you serious? You are the same chefs that wont take a delivery if its not perfect. Cry me a river that you had no idea about the waste.That is B**S***.
Mind you....I have been to those farms in NY. None of those farmers sell their "blemished" products. If they even sold it half price, everyone would buy it. .How would they make money selling the "perfect" apples at 1.99 a Lb., if consumers will take them for .59 a Lb. (but not perfect)? . Especially in this economy.

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  1. The farmers didn't sell their blemished produce. They gave it away on the show.

    I was personally appalled at the immense waste of meat and produce when - as you say - in this economy people are hungry and doing without - or settling for Hamberger Helper. I guess it's easy to be cynical and resigned about it, but my question is how can we impact the situation?

    12 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      I'm sure this show is beneficial to the ignorant. Maybe if we learned as a society that looks aren't everything, there would be more produce out their for people to chose from. But, in this society people want the best, and pay a good price for it. Look at everything else in this society.....we base everything on looks; until we accept a tomato for its flavor, not its looks, we will never learn.

      1. re: liza219

        Ignorant? Or uneducated?

        I liked this show.

        We are **educated** to expect perfection.We are trained. Food industry professionals, imo. are educated to abhor and prevent waste [well...let's not talk about chains].

        We shop weekly at a farmers market where all is not 'perfect.' but we manage to rummage and search and find great edible food. why can't all do this? Education.

        My sole problem with this show, although I liked it and thought it important, was sorrow that the folk who grew/raised/distributed the food could not find a channel to get that food to folk who need it. We've got a distribution problem. A bad one. I sincerely hope that someone learns from this show, and improves distribution. somewhere.

        Me, who ate a totally mis-formed but good roma tomato as part of dinner tonight. From a farmer, who was unashamed to offer it. [yah, I live in Southern CA. we get good tomatoes even now We do. And that raises the question about what does the rest of the country do?.]

        1. re: nikkihwood

          I agree. My husband works now works for a large wholesale supplier, and not until recently started donated unused, "unsellable" food to pantries. For years I was saying that it was such a waste to just destroy the food. He said the company could"t risk the liability. Now it's a big pr deal, how they"re helping the community. There is definitely a market out there.

          1. re: nikkihwood

            <"We shop weekly at a farmers market where all is not 'perfect.' but we manage to rummage and search and find great edible food.>

            As in Chemicalkinetics' example, below, you are also choosing your produce based on its appearance. You're just setting the bar lower. What are you rummaging around for, if not the nicest-looking specimen you can find?

            1. re: small h

              It's not just a matter of aesthetics. For example, many heirloom breeds of tomatoes develop large inedible cracks on top. I do look for those that have the most edible material, especially at the price, even while realizing that I'm trading appearance for flavor.

              1. re: JonParker

                I understand that, but you're comparing cracked heirloom tomatoes to cracked heirloom tomatoes and choosing the one that provides you with the most unblemished surface. You're still basing your selection on appearance, since you assume that all cracked heirlooms will taste pretty much the same. Now, if you tell me that an uglier cracked heirloom tastes better than a prettier cracked heirloom, and therefore you'd choose the uglier one, you would clearly be choosing by taste rather than appearance.

                1. re: JonParker

                  I think that is the point. We all do some selection. We all try to play the ones appear the most attractive or even the ones that appear most tasty. Why not? So either you do the selection or the sellers (like supermarkets or restaurants) do it for you. Either way, we are left with foods which do not appeal. So what do we do with those? They often get tossed away.

                2. re: small h

                  no, we're 'rummaging' for what looks like will be the best tasting food we can purchase that day. I've got some less-than-perfect baby bok choy in the fridge as I write, waiting to be grilled for Tuesday dinner. It will be delicious.

                  1. re: nikkihwood

                    That you wrote "what looks like will (sic) be the best tasting food" makes my point yet again. Unless you are taking a bite out of every piece of bok choy to see how it tastes, you're using your eyes to choose, not your mouth. I assume that very near the less-than-perfect bok choy you bought, there were other heads of bok choy you considered and rejected, because - wait for it - they didn't look as good to you.

                    1. re: small h

                      Can't you look at fruits and veggies and see which are going to be tastier? I can. ;o) I realize that just because it looks fresh doesn't mean it will taste good, but any experienced cook that does their own shopping learns to use look and feel to pick the best, tastiest produce.


                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                        I sure can, and I invite those who think they aren't conscious of appearance to blindfold themselves as they rummage and see how pleased they are with what they get. I'm in full agreement with those who to say that vegetables don't have to be camera-ready to taste good. But if you claim to disregard how a tomato looks because you can tell how it will taste using only your other senses (or your psychic powers, or the knowledge that you're standing in a farm market and not a supermarket), you are lying. Just admit that looks matter. And don't worry. No one will call you shallow.

                3. re: nikkihwood

                  We don't eat fresh tomatoes in the winter.

            2. I wonder how CSA's are handling this? I've heard some customers on line complaining about the quality from the company i use. My deliveries are certainly not perfect, and I still use it, but I still waste plenty.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Shrinkrap

                I also get veggies from a CSA, and I'll be honest-- I get lots of stuff that I personally wouldn't have bought at a farmers' market or grocery store (arugula leaves with lots of insect holes, carrots that are so crooked that they are very hard to peel or even wash thoroughly, etc.) As long as people have a choice, they will choose as they will, and there *will* be waste.

              2. People seriously should be surprised. We are not stupid. On one hand, we want everything we eat from restaurants to be perfect. On the other hand, we are surprised that they throw away the not-so-perfect foods. Really?

                When we go to supermarkets and find all the perfect looking apples, do we really think all apples are perfectly coming off the trees? In the case, we find a mix of apples, then what? Then we pick the best looking ones and leave the bad looking one behind. It is what it is.

                "If they even sold it half price, everyone would buy it."

                Not so sure about it. Even homeless people have high expectation. I came from a community with high population of homeless (Berkeley, CA; Oakland, CA). If you try to give a blemished apple to a homeless, then he will likely yell at you.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Here in Beautiful Downtown Baltimore the homeless guys will yell at you if you give them a perfect apple. Or a prime filet. Or money. Homeless guys yell. But, yeah I get what you're saying.
                  I often shop at a small inner city market that is frequented by lower income folks and have seen perfectly edible but not-so-pretty fruits and veggies go to waste while the perfect specimens are snatched up.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Chemicalkinetics: Only per your last paragraph, those are homeless PEOPLE and a homeless PERSON. Not just a homeless. I live where you come from and have laid many a half-eaten sandwich or today's bruised purse-banana on many a homeless community member here, and it was never received with anything but thanks.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Maybe only peripherally related, but some teens in Portland (Or) panhandle for doggy bags instead of money!

                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                        They do that here, too: hence the always having a purse-banana if nothing else.

                    2. Seems like the tv show itself has little to do with the resulting discussion here. The waste from all parts of the food chain is horrible. There are regulations in some places that actually forbid donating unsold food cooked in licensed restaurants.

                      1. Waste of time? No - not at all. I thought the show was very interesting. I was surprised at the foods that were available - although I shouldn't have been. What are the laws regarding donating the food(s) to a food kitchen? I suspect they are heavily regulated - especially with in store made dated items. As far as the produce farms and meat places - I would think not so much. Vast resources that need to be taken advantage of -

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Jeanne

                          I imagine the laws vary from state to state. I've been in the supermarket industry for quite awhile, and I've seen everything from 50% off racks for out-of-code nonperishable product to everything being donated. My state doesn't allow perishable items to be sold at reduced price nor donated, so anything that's dairy or prepared food (rotisserie chicken, for instance) is tossed in the Dumpster. Bakery and grocery items are usually donated to a food bank. Produce, I'm not so sure -- I know a couple of chains which donate their waste to a composting company, but outside of that, I'm not sure. It wouldn't surprise me if they're also tossed in the Dumpster, to be honest.

                          I remember reading somewhere about food banks not wanting to complain, but complaining that most of what they can offer are bakery products. There's a reason for this: Bread and cake s incredibly cheap, so if an in-store bakery makes a lot, it's for pennies. Ditto canned products.

                          1. re: Jeanne

                            What upset me the most was that the most delicious cuts were headed for the dumpster. Beef hearts? Have you had anticuchos? Beef tongue? I've never had it when I didn't like it. I know so many people, including self professed foodies, who think I'm nuts for enjoying offal. I don't like everything. But ill try anything.

                            1. re: JonParker

                              I wonder if one problem with offal is the limited supply per animal. For the beef heart for example, there is only one per cow, so it might be hard to get a demand going when the quantity is limited. I think that's why ox tail currently cost so much.

                            2. re: Jeanne

                              Federal law protects grocers and restaurants from liability when donating food, except in cases of gross negligence.

                              See: http://feedingamerica.org/get-involve...

                              1. re: mpjmph

                                Yup, I used to work at a Food Bank and we constantly had to assuage fears of potential donors that they were not putting themselves at risk by donating.

                                FWIW, Costco was by far our biggest supplier of donations; I don't know if that was a corporate policy or just the local one. In any case, it makes it easier for me to feel good about shopping there.

                                1. re: LurkerDan

                                  Thanks for that info, Dan. I will be happier shopping at Costco because they do this.

                            3. I am watching it right now. Couldn't sleep and had taped it yesterday while we watched the Bronco's win.......go {{{Tebow}}}

                              I'm not surprised at the waste and it is so dumb to not let homeless or people on limited budgets buy from the vendors or grocers, the imperfect food.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: iL Divo

                                ... and yet pantries will not accept donations of "expired" food. Sigh.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  wonder if anyone heard that official with the thermometer in hand say something about the expiration date being one of use by rather than no longer good....... < that's paraphrased cause it's not verbatim, too tired to care at 'early30' today

                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                    That was not what he said. An expiration date is the date on which the product expires. A "best by" date is an indicator of quality.

                                    Having said that, expiration dating is based on a worst case scenario regarding handling and storage. A properly handled product should be fine for 3-7 days past the expiry.

                                    1. re: JonParker

                                      I wanted to hear more about that. And how come some things at some stores get no dates at all? And what about when it says "sell by"?

                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                        I work in a related industry. Expiry means "we have verifiable data that this product will perform as expected until the date given." Sell By means "while this product is safe beyond this date, we do not guaranteei its quality."

                                      2. re: JonParker

                                        did you read that was paraphrased? jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez............................settle down

                                  2. re: iL Divo

                                    I have a friend whose father runs a tomato farm (very successful for 30+ years). They sell at farmers' market in a 50 mile radius, and to local restaurants. He will not sell imperfect tomatoes at the markets because he does not want a public reputation for producing "ugly" tomatoes. The uglies do not go to waste though - he sells them to a few restaurants that use the for sauces or salsa, and keeps friends and family well supplied with tomatoes throughout the season.

                                    Another tomato farm in the area does sell their uglies at a 50% discount. I know them as "the ugly tomato farm," so I think my friend's dad might have a valid concern about reputation...

                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                      Do you mind saying where? "ugly" (not over ripe) heirloom tomatoes seem quite trendy!

                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                        This is in Carrboro, NC. These are ugly in the sense of heirloom tomatoes with unusual shapes or colors. I'm talking about tomatoes with bruises, blemishes, even small spots of mold. They're perfectly good for sauces or any other dishes where it doesn't matter if you had to remove 1/4 of the tomato, but not good enough to demand full price.

                                      2. re: mpjmph

                                        Can you say the name of the "ugly tomato farm" mpjmph? I'm in Durham, NC - would love to be able to have access to them.

                                        1. re: Jeanne

                                          I honestly don't know the name of the farm, I really do know them as "the ones with ugly tomatoes." They're at the Carrboro market, in the uncovered area of the market near the firehouse/town hall.

                                    2. Not surprised at the waste. We rasied pigs when I was growing up and we we're allowed to collect produce that was being thrown out by stores. First time my Mom dumped out a pail she noticed there were perfectly good potatoes and lettuce and tomatoes. We were quite poor in those days. After that she picked through it before it went to the pigs and we ate very well. I am surprised that someone hasn't figured out a way to make a business out of that stream of food. A Ross fed for Less type of store. I realize that clothing is not perishable and is easier to ship around, but maybe some smart, enterprising person will figure out a method of distribution.

                                      If there were such a store I wonder how much it would cut into the bottom line of the traditional grocers?


                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                        The methods of distribution exist, they just take more time/effort/space than many can spare. I have seen situations where grocery stores are willing to donate the food they can't sell, but the window for picking it up is late at night and only a few hours long. If the food bank or shelter can't get a volunteer with a car to pick it up, it goes in the dumpster so they can make room for the next days shipment. If the bank/shelter won't be able to use the food right away, and they don't have the space to store the it, they can't take it. This is why cash donations are more valuable than bags of donated food - the food bank can use money to buy food if needed, or to pay for a new walk in freezer, shelving unit, cargo van, or gasoline if they need it more.

                                        I volunteer at our regional food bank on a regular basis, and one of the more common tasks is sorting through the gleaned seconds from local farms, or sorting dented/damaged cans from a local cannery. The gleaned produce isn't too bad - about 75% is good enough to send on to people in need. The cans are terrible - only 10-20% can be used, the rest have damaged seals and can't be used. It used to be very frustrating, then a local pig farmer approached the food bank about the items they could use. Now he picks up a truckload of cans and produce every week, to be pasteurized and fed to his pigs.

                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                          Labor cost is a major issue. If the store can sell high quality (i.e. pretty) produce with a substantial mark up, they can afford to employ people who will select, trim, and arrange that produce. But why should they pay their employees to handle the imperfect and nearly spoiled stuff, that will sell for much less, or gets donated? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just dump it?

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            In the Ross Dress For Less scenario they buy discontinued items the dept stores can't sell. You would have to do something similar and pay the stores enough so that it makes some money from what would have been thrown away. Now whether there is any margin for a secondary seller to make money is another question.


                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                              There actually are stores selling cast off foods in some cases. Most cities with a commercial bakery will have a "day old bread" store. In my area they are usually Sunbeam Bread outlets, but Hostess and other baked goods manufacturers have similar stores. Nearly every outlet mall I've been to in recent years has had a Pepperidge Farm/Campbells outlet store. Harry and David's even has outlets. Yes, these are all manufactured/packaged foods, but they are still keep food out of the waste stream.

                                              It's a little harder with perishable goods, but I'm seeing signs of light. All of the grocery stores in my area mark down meat for quick sale a day or two before the pull date. If I have the extra cash that week and space in my freezer, I take advantage and stock up, and I'm not the only one based on casual observation. My primary grocery store also has a shelf at the back of the produce section with mark downs, usually 2-3 good pieces of fruit that were rescued from a 5 pound bag that was otherwise spoiled. I've seen apples and oranges for 10 cents/pound. This particular store also marks down a lot of their deli/bakery items at the end of the day (or the next day for items that will keep).

                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                The bakery outlets that I've shopped at are also distribution centers. My guess is that a bakery deliveryman takes a load to one or more groceries, stocks the shelves, and returns to the center with the day old bread. That bread is then put on sale in the outlet. So in a sense, the bakery owns the bread until you buy it.

                                                But, as far as I know, that distribution model is not used for produce.

                                              2. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                There's a regular thread on San Francisco on special finds as Grocery Outlet. I don't find their produce interesting. That's in part because I frequent a couple of poly-ethnic produce stands with better deals. They keep things on display longer than a mainline grocery would. GO is better for shelf stable items (e.g. Best Foods Mayo within a month of 'best by', some sausages and cheeses, even an Italian coffee that Trader Joes no longer carries.

                                                For a while I shopped at a 'crash and dent' shop that apparently was run by a fish wholesaler. Among other things he sold under weight fish portions, e.g. 6oz portions that restaurants didn't because they were really 5oz. But that shop closed.

                                                A local butcher gets clearance items from area retailers; the best deals being overripe $20/lb cheeses at $5/lb. Admittedly I've have had to toss a few items that were beyond my own standards.

                                                But that sort of shopping does take time, which not everyone has.

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  I wish there were stores like that here in NY. I would there in a heartbeat! There's a place I go to in Nj, Corrado"s that sell their overripe produce in big bags for fractions of the shelf price, I usually have a field day there. Driving 45 minutes to get there is a pain though. The guac I make with there overripe avocados is killer! And it cost less than $ 1!

                                        2. i saw this show for the first time last night and found it pretty interesting. reading through the replies, it's good to see that people are educating themselves and each other about the amount of waste that goes on. i happen to work at a casino whose buffet wastes tons of food, literally. it's hard to watch at the end of the night when they roll out the garbage cans and dump perfectly edible food. we do donate quite a bit of time and product to local pantries and food banks but it doesn't make the pain of the daily dumping go completely away.

                                          something else that we as consumers may or may not be aware of...not all "sub-standard" food, especially produce, is just dumped...there is a buyers hierarchy that exists far from the typical shoppers' eyes. the big chains and wholesalers get first dibs and pay a higher price, which is why the Jewels and Dominick's of the world (local chicago big chain grocers) have such lovely looking produce that is waxed and sprayed every 2 minutes...and also why you pay such a high price. from there, the product price goes down, as does the size of the store(s) buying it, until you get to the little corner grocery store that sells limes 25/$1. i happen to shop at these stores and you'd be suprised at the quality vs price that you can get compared to Whole Foods. i've literally filled the cargo area of my little suv with produce for less than $20.

                                          now back to the show...i think that part of the reason there is so much waste is simply laziness on the part of the retailer and the fact that there would be a cost incurred for giving rather than tossing. every store/restaurant has a dumpster, sending it out full costs the same as sending it out empty, but packaging and shipping food to pantries and shelters costs time and money that usually hasn't been budgeted for. we do it regularly, on a volunteer basis, but we have corporate support and resources that make it easier. stores and restaurants these days are operating at very close margins and the reality is that when things are tight, giving is harder to do.

                                          1. I haven't seen the show but need to DVR it. But, based on what I'm reading, I have a couple of questions:

                                            1) why isn't the unattractive produce/products sold to processors, eg frozen foods, chains that cut it up, etc. I'd think there's be a big market for it. There is no reason for processed food to start w/ perfect food. When I worked for an agricultural company, the people in the fields would (impressively skilled) slice away the green from the vegetable w/ machetes. One wrong nick and the vegetable, say cauliflower, would be marked for a lower brand. A larger one would designate it for cut vegetable. None were thrown away. The same could be done along the lines.

                                            The whole quest for the "perfect looking" produce leads not only to all the waste but to the added things like extra wax on fruit, extra pesticides on leafy vegetables (God forbid we don't have perfect spinach leaves). And, we should distinguish between choosing fruit/vegetables that are "perfect looking" in that they are picture perfect; and choosing produce that looks like it would taste better, though both are appearance based. One has a function; the other doesn't (outside of tablescapes, that is).

                                            2) When talking about waste, you should see the waste when there is a bumper crop and way more product than the demand. When the price drops low enough, it's not even worth harvesting the produce and it just sits there, fields and fields of produce. Perfect in every way but price. There should be a way to use that but no one had a solution or cared.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Many vegetable and fruit processors are located close to growers, and may even contract with growers to produce varieties that suit their processing methods and market.

                                              Thus most of the canned pumpkin comes from a Libbys plant in Morton Illinois, using a type of pumpkin specially selected for the purpose. Frozen green peas, especially the very small ones, come from fields close to the processor. Likewise canned tomatoes and tomato sauces - straight from field to processor.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                What about small restaurants? I guess it's not reliable. OTOH, it would be great if nonprofits could use it and cook meals for the needy or give it out.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  I believe the main problem here is the cost of transportation. It's about getting the product to the people in need. There can be an over crop of anything, but if no one wants to pay for transporting it (and the time), it's not gonna get anywhere it can be used.

                                                  1. re: liza219

                                                    Yeah--I volunteer at a food pantry and there are volunteers who bring food from grocery stories. But, they rarely, if ever give produce. It's always such a treat when they do.

                                                    1. re: liza219

                                                      One of the other issues too is that the supply is broken up at the end. For example, let's say I'm a distributer with 1000 cases of tomatoes, 10% of which will end up as waste. The problem is that I sell my tomatoes to 100 groceries and restaurants, each of which takes 10 cases. Each of those in turn has one case in waste. You can't just undo the distribution chain to have 100 cases to repurpose.

                                                      The actual reality is far messier than my example. Once the tomatoes are at retail level its pretty much the end of the road.