Food Loss and Waste for Produce: Economic Abandonment

Project: Research project

Description

Food loss and waste is a serious issue in the United States that affects all aspects of the supply chain from farmers to consumers. While many resources have been devoted to understanding how food loss and waste occurs at the consumer level, our understanding of how much food never makes it to this final stage of the supply chain is more limited. For example, in 2014, ERS released a study on food waste at the consumer and retail levels which found that 430 billion pounds of food were not eaten in the U.S. in 2010. However, there is a lack of data relating to food loss and waste prior to reaching retail and what that means in terms of lost income and marketing opportunities for farmers. A deeper understanding at the farm and pre-retail sectors will address existing knowledge gaps and help shape the conversation around food loss and waste in the United States. Such information could help create new markets for cosmetically imperfect food, value-added products, or other business opportunities for farmers.

ERS defines food loss as the amount of food available for human consumption that is not consumed for any reason. Broadly speaking, food loss can be involuntary (i.e. driven by forces outside the grower, handler, or processors control such as weather events or crop failures) or voluntary (i.e. loss caused by farmer, shipper, or processor leaving edible product behind).

ERS is often looked to as the leader in topics that affect agriculture on a national level. This is true for things like market conditions, farm income, food availability, and food security. Currently, ERSs expertise in food loss and waste lies on the consumer and retail end of the supply chain, rather than at the farm, processor, wholesaler, or shipper level. Additionally, due to a lack of readily available data at this level, the established literature on this topic is also sparse.

The objective of this co-operative agreement is to provide new insight to economic abandonment of produce prior to reaching the retail stores. Considering the distinction above, the focus is produce that has been planted but does not reach the retail store due to voluntary decisions or actions that are undertaken during production and handling. Specifically, this agreement aims to foster a deep understanding of the issues related to crops produced but not harvested due to market conditions (economic abandonment), the underlying factors, and potential mitigation strategies, such that they exist.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/21/1712/31/19

Funding

  • US Department of Agriculture (USDA): $70,000.00

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food loss
food waste
economics
supply chain
farmers
food defense
markets
new markets
farms
value-added products
farm income
crops
food availability
marketing
growers
income
weather
nutritive value
agriculture