Contact Me

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What is Wasted Food?

Wasted Food?
 Jonathan Blooms's article today, Atop the Soapbox, on his blog, Wasted Food, brought to the forefront some questions I have been asking myself lately.

What exactly is food waste?
I know my apple cores and banana peels should be composted or fed to the chickens, and I do both. They should not go into a landfill.

Chicken food?
Am I wasting food when I let the last of the lettuce go bad by procrastinating and not eating it? Even though the three hens eat it, I still feel I wasted it. If I get cast off food from a market and want it just for feeding hens, I know I am saving it from the landfill and helping not to waste food. But, I have this uneasy and maybe irrational feeling that I should eat what I pay for and not let one crumb of fruits and vegetables go to landfill, compost, or hens. I will slice off the little bad spot from an onion that is given me in the box of chicken produce and chop/freeze for later use. 

Some people on many posts/comments for months have said they wasted nothing because it goes to hogs or chickens. Somehow, I think that allowing a cupful of beans or 1/4 cup of yogurt to stay beyond their welcome in the refrigerator is waste! Yes, compost or hens can redeem the food waste, but isn't it still waste?

Is it okay to say you didn't waste that last helping of food by feeding it to an animal or the compost because you don't like leftovers? Shouldn't we learn to love leftovers?

I certainly agree with all his other concerns and points. The term "waste" confuses me. Yes, his dog can eat it, my hens or compost pile put wasted food to use. Of course, my compost bin is starving for food scraps now that I have hens.

Again, what is waste?
My question is not in any type of opposition to his blog. But, if a person throws out half a head of lettuce to hens or compost, isn't she still wasting food? If a guy leaves an apple or banana that he took for a lunch until it is inedible yet brings it home to compost, didn't he still waste food? When people say they don't waste anything because the feed leftovers-lingering-languishing to animals or the compost pile, aren't they still wasting food. I think so.

Of course, I won't eat any gristle on meat of any kind. And, I trim away all fat from meat. Is that waste? Hmmm, no. The hens will eat it.

Of course, I agree that the Rose Bowl full of food could be better used, consumed by humans, compost bins, or animals.

Is this food in the picture considered waste?
Look at the picture, please. This eggplant and cabbage leaf bit have been in my backyard since Saturday. They both were in much better shape four days ago when I brought them home. Could the eggplant have been used for human consumption? I don't know because I don't eat eggplant. Grocers/markets/farmers are forced to peel back the cabbage leaves to show the nicer inner cabbage leaves. I pondered this as I fed perfectly good cabbage leaves to my hens. The two apples I gave them had a little bruise on each.

I do eat the garlic and onions because not to do so would be "wasting" both. I have a compost hole that receives citrus, garlic (really is rotten), onions (same here), and eggplant.

Conflicted thoughts
If I were truly hungry, in a starvation mode, how much of the food I get only for hens would I consider edible? So, if it would be edible in one circumstance and just animal food in another circumstance, how much of a hypocrite am I?

Am I making up rules for other people that don't apply to me? Is feeding possibly-wasted food to the animals or compost bin sufficient redemption for wasting that food at the dinner table, in the refrigerator, or in the market?


  1. This is a really thought-provoking post, Linda.
    Here are my two cents: Any food that could have been eaten but isn't because of a human decision is waste. Feeding what we don't eat to animals is a wise use of our food waste. But it's still waste, because it wasn't grown/raised to feed animals.

    Having said that, there's always going to be some food that's wasted. We're not perfect. And keeping food out of the landfill, where some of the environmental problems occur, is a real key.

  2. Jonathan, Thanks. That means the folks who say they don't waste good leftovers because they feed them to animals are still wasteful. Yes, I waste gristle, fat, banana peels, but not whole helpings of food. The occassional fresh fruit or vegetable just horrifies me because it was food grown for human consumption and purchased with my money. I lose when I waste food.Maybe if I put the core of the cabbage in a blender, I could eat that, too.

  3. Hmmm... Interesting. If you didn't give your 'food waste' to your hens, where would their food come from? I know you collect food for them, but wasn't that food also intended for human consumption?

    I don't grow enough (yet) on my little farm to feed all of my people and critters. I have to buy food for them. And yes, I can go to the feed store and buy feed that was 'designed' for the critters, but the fact is I have to buy food for them one way or the other.

    Dogs and chickens are an easy use of leftovers. Since I make doggy stew, and buy meat, rice & carrots specifically for that purpose, it helps my budget when I find some odd bit of something that the kids haven't ravished. Chickens are always in need of any bits of vegetation they can get.

    No, I don't consider feeding the animals 'food waste'.

    Now, even though compost is needed for the garden, I do consider that food waste. A better disposal method than the landfill, but definitely waste.

  4. Wendy, the fact is someone, somewhere did not consume what was grown/raised for humans. So, in that sense we/I/you wasted food. That adds up to wasted fossil fuel, wasted energy. That food could be consumed by hungry people. Yes, waste is inevitable with kids.

    However, you control the food for your animals in a responsible way. You are not refusing to eat leftovers or letting the refrigerator fill with food you forgot to eat.

    My hens, left to their own devices could survive without my buying food. Of course, they would make good raccoon food at that point.

    Like Jonathan said, some food waste is inevitable. I COULD eat the fat and gristle, but I suppose I am not hungry enough NOT to waste it.

    There is basically little wrong with the food I collect for my hens. That food is headed to the dumpster if I don't get it. I was basically talking about people who say that their leftovers don't go to waste because they go to pets or other animals. By leftovers, I meant what they cooked and did not care to eat the next day.

    I 'wasted' some of my rice, beans, and oats that became infested with bugs/moths. It is all in the freezer to stop the bugs, but it will become chicken food. I feel I wasted food. Yet, you go buy people food for animals. I think I wasted food but you did not.

    Still, people who proclaim they don't waste their leftovers because it goes to pets or compost sort of bother me. Yes, I am in the group that is troubling me.

    It would be nice if I even had intentions of growing food for my three hens! A year before I got them, I had decided NOT to buy commercially prepared chicken food because I believe it is not good for them. Commercially prepared chicken feed is one of the reasons chickens need antibiotics!

    Your situation seems to be quite different from the situations I am thinking about. I commend you for not buying commercial animal feed. Thanks for the comment.

  5. That was supposed to read "I was basically talking about people who say that their leftovers don't go to waste because they go to pets or other animals AND WASTE AT THE MARKET LEVEL."


For the present, I am taking comment moderation off the blog.