Walmart is investing in a research program geared to helping improve the proportion of crops that are harvested and delivered. The Walmart Foundation and the Foundation for Food Agriculture Research are funding $1.3 million for research – to be conducted by the World Wildlife Fund – that would identify practical opportunities for producers to increase the proportion of crops that are harvested and delivered to the highest value destinations.
Of the estimated 63 million tons of food lost or wasted annually in the US, more than 80% is lost or wasted in consumer-facing businesses and in homes. But while it is likely that less food is lost on farms, the lack of data quantifying this loss in different crops makes it difficult to identify the problems that lead to such loss and to evaluate solutions. Over the next 22 months, research teams aim to bridge those data gaps and test interventions to maximize crop utilization and profitability on farms.
“The best way to feed people without putting more stress on our environment is to increase the availability of food that has already been produced,” said Jason Clay, WWF’s senior vice president of markets and food.
While the amount of food waste throughout the world is clearly significant, potentially overstated measures on the amount of food that is actually wasted each year could have profound consequences when it comes to public policy, according to a new study published on behalf of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association. The study indicates that food waste is being overestimated, in part because “measurements value food waste at retail price, rather than upstream prices,” according to Waste Dive.
The authors of the study, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics, say that food waste estimates from the most commonly cited studies are contradictory at best and incomplete and inaccurate at worst. Part of the problem, according to the study, is that definitions of food waste differ greatly from study to study.
One commonly cited measurement used when food waste is being reported (including by this publication) is that up to 40% of food produced around the world goes to waste because it is spoiled or tossed. This statistic appears to stem from a 2012 NRDC report called Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill (via New Food Economy).