According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 30 to 40% of the country’s food supply is wasted. Food waste can occur at every level of the supply and consumption chain, from the farm to when produce is brought home from the grocery store. Regardless, bad produce from food suppliers creates excessive amounts of waste.
For producers and distributors, throwing food out results in lost money, impacting profit margins significantly. There are also various environmental and economic repercussions to this.
Here are the causes and effects of food waste and how Silo can help your produce business cut back on it through five food waste solutions.
The causes of food waste
Spoiled vegetables and fruits can occur at any phase of the perishable supply chain, but the result is the same no matter when or where it happens.
During farming, transportation, and processing, fresh produce is vulnerable to damage. Pests such as insects, birds, and rodents are a particular problem that sees crops contaminated before or after harvest.
Improper storage and temperature control due to negligence or malfunctioning equipment can also cause the growth of bacteria and mold, which can then spread to other lots and end in batches of produce being thrown out.
On the retail level, ordering too much supply is a common issue that contributes to waste when it’s not sold.
Another problem involves selectivity with the produce that actually makes it onto the shelf, since it’s assumed that fruits and vegetables with marks or blemishes are less likely to sell. Discarding a few marked items may seem harmless initially, but over time can compound into a lot of waste.
The effects of food waste
While throwing away spoiled fruits and vegetables can feel guilt-inducing, there are plenty of practical reasons to avoid getting to that point. Here are the effects and consequences of food waste.
Even for small businesses, scrapping batches here and there can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars each year when it’s done regularly. A report from Statista showed that food waste in 2016 accounted for billions of dollars in total loss for U.S. businesses.
Lowered profit margins not only affect the pockets of business owners, but can impact the wages and productivity of a company’s bottom line.
Waste of resources
When you get to the point of bad produce having to be thrown out, you’ve ultimately wasted the resources involved in packing, shipping, and distributing it. The cost of labor, energy, gas, and other resources can add up. This also includes expenses from processing and storage, and by the end, the cost of services and fuel in discarding spoiled goods.
Putting resources into produce that ends up being disposed of is a less than optimal use of time and capital.
When spoiled vegetables and fruits are sent to landfills (often in plastic bags), the nutrients found in produce have no chance of returning to the soil. The rot produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s a major contributor to climate change.
Globally, food waste is responsible for millions of tons of harmful emissions and greenhouse gasses, causing environmental damage with serious long-term consequences.
Inequitable access to food
Food being wasted at any level of the supply and consumption chain is also an economic and social problem that results in less food security for low-income families. Produce ending up in landfills is a missed opportunity to feed families who may have needed it.
5 food waste solutions
So how can your produce business reduce waste? Here are 5 food waste solutions you can implement.
1. Enhance inventory tracking and traceability
If you want to prevent waste in the first place, better inventory tracking can go a long way. Managing your existing lots to ensure they’re sold and transported on time can prevent spoilage.
Many businesses have improved their produce management by implementing technologies like Silo into their business models to make logging and following their products through the supply chain simpler.
By documenting each lot’s history, unprecedented situations such as recalls are made much easier. Traceability ensures that your business is operating with safety and quality assurance in mind, and reduces food waste by speeding up the process of getting batches to and from suppliers.
2. Better storage and packaging
Spoiled vegetables and fruits are often the results of insufficient storage and packaging during processing or transportation. Exposing produce to excessive moisture and air encourages bacteria growth, which then makes it unsafe for consumption and sale.
It’s important to properly handle and store produce since it’s delicate, perishable, and can have different temperature requirements. Knowing the optimal conditions for various fruits and vegetables can help you avoid spoilage.
A refrigerated freight truck, for example, provides an ideal environment for shipping.
3. Generate according to demand
Knowing the market lets you avoid overproducing and overbuying a surplus of food that goes unused. Growing and purchasing the right amount to meet demand minimizes food waste.
Trial and error and asking around the industry are common methods used, but they can be both unreliable and inefficient. These days, modern technologies give you access to accurate market insights, dependent on seasonal factors. Ideally, you’d also be able to view historical data to identify buying patterns.
4. Give away excess
If you’ve already obtained a surplus and are unsure what to do with your excess fruits and vegetables, consider donating them. Whether it’s to your family or neighbors, or to a charity, giving away extra food will make good use of excess.
With rising food costs all across the globe, food insecurity has become an increasingly prevalent issue, with thousands going hungry every day. Donating to a food bank, shelter, or foster home to feed people in need provides hunger relief and can help you with the problem of food waste.
But what if your produce has already gone bad? As it turns out, spoiled fruits and vegetables have many uses and can be recycled in various ways.
The most common use of bad produce is to compost it. Returning nutrients to the dirt produces healthy soil, which can help you further produce fruits and vegetables.
Composting has been proven to reduce the need for fertilizers and improve water retention. Vegetable stalks and fruit peels are particularly nutrient-rich. If you’re not a grower yourself, you can always send scraps to a composting facility.
Silo: The solution to food waste
One of the best food waste solutions is modernizing your operations to cut down on waste.
Silo gives your business better tracking and traceability, increasing visibility so you can accurately source the details of your produce. Eliminate the guesswork with tools that provide insight into a lot’s history and current status.
You can notify customers and vendors about a recall at any time with Silo, with all the data and information you need being just a few clicks away.
You’ll also gain access to valuable performance metrics, profitability calculations, and market insights to accurately produce according to demand.
Book a demo with Silo and see the Silo platform in action today!