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Burgerlary: An Overview of the Global Food Waste Epidemic

By Samantha Miller

*sigh* Who doesn't love a good cheeseburger?


Using the All-American burger as the measuring stick, FoodCycler will break down the global food waste epidemic, from coast to coast and bun to bun. With a bit of digging, this hapless burger shall prove that we all have egg on our face, and ketchup on our hands. So let’s dig in:


Let’s take a closer look at the accused, shall we?



Bread and other grains are wasted at a tremendous scale across the world. Brits toss 24 million slices of bread every single day. Residents of the United States only taste 68 percent of the bread that survives the baker’s oven. Cereals represent 30% of global quantitative food losses. 

 food waste statistics, infographic, food waste infographic


What could possibly account for such a waste of everyone’s favorite fill-up food (“I’ll have bread with a side of bread, please”)? Pre-harvest losses are caused by insects, weeds and rusts, particularly in the developing world, where food security measures are not as equipped to deal with the vagaries of weather.


Post-harvest losses are a step up the supply-chain ladder, from microscopic villain, to the middlemen of industrial food storage and transportation. However, the majority of food losses, including grains, do not occur behind the scenes, but between the shopping cart and your dinner plate. 


A whopping (whopper?) 45%-60% of fruit and vegetables are wasted along their field-to-fork odyssey. Those are some Game of Throne-worthy losses.
fruits, vegetables, waste, food waste, infographic, statistic
1.4 billion (that’s right, billion) hectares of land is used to produce wasted food. In other terms, one third of the world’s agricultural land is sacrificed to food that will never even touch your lips. 
statistic, food waste, infographic
Fruits n’ veggies are regular victims of human vanity: billions of pounds of produce are tossed out prior to retailing due to the exclusion of “ugly food” from large grocers’ strict cosmetic standards. Imagine your parents throwing you to the curb just because you sprouted a pimple!
But we can’t simply foist the blame on our unsuspecting supermarket: the consumer has something to answer for as well. Think back: when was the last time you ate a bruised apple, a knotty potato, a sweating spinach leaf? Probably not since your last round of childhood truth or dare, right?
Apples, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes: even the ugly ones deserve a snac-t of love.
water waste statistics, food waste infographics
We’ve heard it all before: meat is murder. Even if you do not belong to the Cult of Vegan, you have certainly gathered that the production of animal protein (in particular, beef) is an act of ecological savagery. 89 kilometers cubed of the world’s water stores are used to sustain agricultural lands (about a fifth of Lake Ontario, or nearly 20 trillion gallons of water).
 food waste statistics, food waste infographic
The greatest portion of this proverbial geyser is allotted to feedlot animals. It takes 2, 400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, and 2, 000 gallons of water to one gallon of milk. Compare this to the 25 gallons required to raise one pound of wheat, and perhaps you can imagine why the image of this sexy, yet-uneaten burger is starting to make us very thirsty indeed.
food waste statistics, food waste infographic
Let's say you've bought all the ingredients you need to make this tasty burger treat.
Did you know that 50% of that grocery haul will never even reach your plate; that, from a theatrical standpoint, you might as well have dropped two of your four bags onto the supermarket parking lot, or else lit 2,200$-worth of your yearly food budget on fire – at least that would save on heating costs.
food waste, groceries wasted, food waste infographic
And what about that yummy burger extravaganza you’ve been planning? It’s a miracle that the ground beef, buns, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese even made it to the aisle from which you plucked them.
But don’t worry: as a member of a household, you make up 47% of the food waste pie chart. You’ll have plenty of chances in the coming week to toss a good chunk of your grocery haul from your fridge into the trash.
And while a spot of mold on the buns, or a slimy bit of lettuce might mean your dinner party is at risk of being short-changed, landfills are anything if not well-fed…  

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