How Many Trips to Mars Will it Take us to Stop Wasting Food?

Jonathan Harris, my Long Bottom Line collaborator, recently shared an interesting website with me called Counting Animals. The site is described as “a place for people who love animals and numbers” – a niche that I find myself in. My accountant side was satiated by their statistics about food loss at the retail and consumer level, segregated by type of meat. But I digress.

In an earlier post this year I discussed the tremendous amount of food waste we generate as a society and how this waste is costing us billions of dollars. When I saw the statistics on Counting Animals, it struck me that there were several issues at play here – each one a compelling case to manage our food supply chains (and our kitchens and pantries) better. Based on statistics from the USDA, there is approximately 12.4 billion pounds (5.6 million metric tonnes) of beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish and shellfish that is lost at the consumer level every year in the US.

Airplane pollution 400_299

Extrapolating these amounts by emissions factor estimates for each kg of meat consumed, there are roughly 84 billion kg of carbon dioxide equivalents that are generated for meat that is spoiled and never eaten! To put this number into perspective, 84 billion kg of carbon dioxide equivalents is about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would be caused by a 397-seat Boeing 747 travelling from Toronto, Ontario, to Mars, and back…..four times, and then circling the earth 5,000 times….every year. With carbon emission reduction targets becoming more prevalent at the state/province and national levels, tackling food waste could be a compelling method to reducing unnecessary emissions.

Sources:

http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/climate-and-environmental-impacts/

http://www.carbonplanet.com/downloads/Flight_Calculator_Information_v9.2.pdf

http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/134674/tb1927.pdf

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One thought on “How Many Trips to Mars Will it Take us to Stop Wasting Food?

  1. Nice post Dan. I like the astronomical angle! But to also put it in more earthly terms, the 84 billion kg of carbon dioxide that results from wasted meat each year is equivalent to the yearly output of 17.5 million passenger vehicles! http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that the typical emissions for equivalent amounts of non-animal food are less than one tenth of animal food emissions. So almost all the these emissions could theoretically be eliminated even if we were wasting 5.6 million tons of nuts, broccoli, and veggie burgers each year!

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