Sustainable food supply chain
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Sustainable food supply chain

Savings along the food supply chain translate to both environmental and economic benefits. Upcycling food, reducing food miles (i.e. the distance food travels before it reaches the customer), or cutting down on food waste can greatly benefit the food companies and the planet.

The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the economic, environmental, and social costs associated with food waste at USD 2.6 trillion: This is roughly equivalent to the GDP of France or twice the total annual food expenditure in the United States.

Food loss and waste

Food waste is a size of a big country

What is more, according to the 2019 World Resources Report, food loss and waste consumes 25% of all water used by agriculture each year and an amount of land greater than the size of China. If we measured food loss and waste in country terms, it would be the third-largest source of greenhouse gases emissions in the world.

Total food loss and waste across the supply chain

Eliminating food waste in the United States and Europe alone would add 10% to the world's available food supply. To limit food waste, we need solutions across the entire food supply chain: About 50% of food is lost in the production and handling phase, while 45% is wasted in the distribution and consumption phase. Food worth USD 408 billion or roughly 2% of global GDP went unsold or uneaten in 2019.

Ways to save food along the supply chain

The World Resources Report lists a wide variety of approaches at various stages of the food supply chain to reduce food loss and waste. These approaches focus on prevention, recovery, and recycling solutions. 

Food waste in the USA

Although some of the solutions require large-scale infrastructure developments, others can be easily implemented by changes in consumer behavior and attitudes. These approaches are comprehensive, but not exhaustive:

Not eaten may not be wasted

If food is not eaten it does not mean that it cannot be re-used. All around the world circular solutions have been developed that help address food waste and create job opportunities at the same time.

Why not turn what is left from sunflower seeds after pressing oil out of them, into low-carb chips that are full of protein and fiber (just like the company Planetarians does) or use fruit and veggie pulp (byproduct of juice production) as a main ingredient of nutrient-laden popsicles? How about adding otherwise-to-be-thrown away pickle juice to a fancy Bloody Mary mix (both Render and The Real Dill do it) or turning veggies and fruit with cosmetic flaws into salsas and chut­­­­neys (Salt and Straw, Rubies in the Rubble)?

In order to reduce the financial and environmental costs of food waste we need to take a holistic approach: On one hand, we need regulations; on the other, more thoughtful choices and mental change around the idea of zero waste. If we combine that with the food industry realizing business opportunities designed to limiting food waste, we can achieve a sustainable food supply chain.