Canadians are among the world's most well-fed people — so much so that we're wasting billions of dollars worth of edible food a year, mostly coming from our homes, according to a study.
The Cut Waste, Grow Profit draft report from the Ontario-based Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC) suggests that more than half (51 per cent) of the estimated $27 billion of food wasted countrywide ends up as unwanted leftovers dropped into household trash bins.
Expectations for larger portion sizes, confusion about safe consumption and sell-by dates, and the low cost to households of over-purchasing and wasting food were among factors blamed for the wasteful behaviour.
"The food waste that occurs in Canada is largely a symptom of current processes and attitudes, primarily of abundance and affluence," the unpublished paper states.
The VCMC is an extension of the independent agri-products think-tank the George Morris Centre, and provides annual research about food waste.
Food waste, as defined by the draft report, is the loss and disposal of food that's perfectly fit for human consumption. The group released the paper ahead of the forthcoming Cut Waste, Grow Profit forum on Nov. 19 in Mississauga, Ont.
The chart provided in the background document points out that the second-worst area of food waste is via packaging and processing (blamed for 18 per cent of lost food), followed by retail stores (11 per cent), the farming stage (nine per cent), the food service industry (eight per cent) and transport and distribution (three per cent).
Last month, the U.S. Natural Resources Defence Council estimated that nearly 40 per cent of food in the States ends up in the trash ever year. The figures are roughly in line with recent estimates of how much Canadians throw away.
According to 2011 figures from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly one-third of all food is lost or wasted, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food per year.
"Most troubling about the massive volumes of food we waste is that it could help compensate for the needs of those who do not have enough," the draft report states. About 860 million people in the world are malnourished, according to a study published by the Stockholm International Water Institute.
According to Statistics Canada figures, in 2009, the per capita wastage of edible food at the retail and consumer levels for the items for the food groups listed below was about 172 kg. That's roughly equal to the weight of a fully grown adult male lion. The breakdown for what and how much we wasted was as follows:
- 122 kg total fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.
- 6 kg of dairy projects.
- 10 kg of poultry (boneless).
- 16 kg of red meats (boneless).
- 18 kg of oils, fats, sugar and syrup.
The VCNC document also provided examples of British, American and Canadian food waste-reduction initiatives. In Canada, for example, the Montreal Urban Community Sustainment group's Zero Food Waste Network picked up "surplus food" from local businesses and passed it on to local food banks. Unfortunately, that organization has ceased operation, the VCNC said.
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With summer corn coming into season, we will all have a ton of corn cobs on our hands. You don't have to throw these away. Use the cobs for a base to make a silky corn soup. The milky "corn juice" comes out of the cobs when you simmer them in a pot and can add a deeper flavor than chicken stock. Try it with this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/corn-chowder_n_1056611.html" target="_hplink">corn chowder recipe</a>.
If you make homemade pickles, you should know that you can reuse your brine. Once you've eaten up your batch of pickled vegetables, save the juice to throw in new vegetables. It's double the pickles for the same amount of brine.
Shrimp peels and tails are great to hold on to. Whether you're looking to make a seafood stew or just a simple tomato soup, they make flavorful stocks. Store them in the freezer and you'll always have something on hand to make a good homemade stock.
When your <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/broccoli-slaw_n_1048994.html" target="_hplink">potato chips</a> lose their crunch, they can still be used to make a great breading for chicken, fish or vegetables. Crumble them up and use them as you would bread crumbs.
Most of us use the broccoli florets and throw out the stems, but these stems can be used to make a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/broccoli-slaw_n_1048994.html" target="_hplink">refreshing summer slaw</a>. Ever notice that the grocery store sells bags of slaw? It's often times made with broccoli stems.
More often than not we buy fresh herbs to make a recipe and then leave them to wilt in the fridge. But if you take one additional step you can preserve the fresh flavor of the herbs for later use. Making <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/how-to-make-compound-butter_n_1654505.html?1341838864" target="_hplink">compound butter</a> with the herbs or freezing them in olive oil to cook with later is a great way to get the most use out of your basil, cilantro or parsley.
Bread is one of those basic ingredients that we almost always have in our kitchens, and we often throw out the last couple of slices that have gone stale. But you don't have to waste them. Use those stale pieces to make croutons or bread crumbs.
If you didn't finish that opened bottle of wine fast enough, you can still use it to cook with. Wine has the ability to enhance dishes with a complexity of flavor. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/recipes-with-wine_n_1137289.html" target="_hplink">Check out these recipes </a>for some ideas.
Just like with the broccoli stems, the green tops of carrots, beets and fennel (as well as other veggies) can be used in recipes too. You can use them to flavor soups, garnish dishes or even in salads.
Before you eat your oranges or squeeze you lemons, save the peels. They can be used in so many different ways to enhance your dishes. You can air dry the peels to <a href="http://www.thekitchn.com/what-to-do-with-leftover-citru-73447" target="_hplink">add to meat dishes or make candied peels</a>. You can also pulverize the peels (making sure to remove the white pith) and make orange peel essence -- which you can use to top snacks like popcorn.
Cookies that have seen better days can be crumbled and saved for making pie crusts. It'll get one you step closer to enjoying a homemade dessert.
If you're inclined to peel your potatoes before you cook them, you can use those peels to make a <a href="http://angelfoodskitchen.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/baked-potato-peel-chips/" target="_hplink">quick batch of homemade chips</a>.
Just like fresh herbs, celery is another one of those items that many of us buy to make just one recipe and then forget about it in the fridge. Before that happens, chop up the remaining celery and freeze it. Next time you need just a few stalks, you'll have it on hand. (You can apply this to many other vegetables too.)
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