I gained many great ideas at Dartmouth College, but an intrinsic love of learning provided the most precious lesson. Although I traded Hanover, NH for the plains of Nebraska almost 18 years ago, the desire to always build knowledge remains a steadfast component in my life journey. My favorite farmer smiles and rolls his eyes a bit when a new topic catapults me into research mode, but after 22 years with me he appreciates that it is one of the things that makes me “Anne”.
My journey studying food waste ultimately originated in volunteer work that I do relative to animal (bovine) welfare. Welfare provides an important component to sustainability both from a social perspective as well as an environmental perspective. I feel that one of my greatest environmental victories as a farmer comes from improving the feed conversion of my cattle – reducing the pounds of feed resources required to make a pound of beef. There are a myriad of factors that go into this improvement, but quality animal welfare (as determined by the unique needs of the bovine) rises quickly to the top.
The bridge from welfare to sustainability ultimately led me to begin studying the topic of food waste. Prior to this, I had no idea how much food ended up in landfills making it a critical component to sustainability. Last Thursday I shared with all of you a list of things that I do both on farm and in my kitchen to work to limit waste, today I share a few of the headline statistics that inspired me to devote more energy to the topic. Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled these findings as well as providing initial suggestions for areas of improvement relative to food waste from farm to fork.
Getting food from farm to fork uses:
10% of the total U.S. energy budget
50% of U.S. land
80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States
Despite this valuable use of resources, 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten costing Americans over $160 billion dollars each year.
The majority of the uneaten food ends up in landfills and provides the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste — Thereby becoming a significant source (EPA estimate of 23% in 2010) of methane emissions.
Reducing food losses by 15% would provide enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans per year.
Perhaps it is because I see everyday on my farm how many resources go into growing food, or perhaps it is simply because I want to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds me; but as I look at the above statements I am motivated to work for positive change.
I hope that you will stick with me on this journey and continue to offer your own suggestions for improvement.