US households waste nearly a third of the food they acquire

ScienceDaily | 1/23/2020 | Staff
jenn1020jenn1020 (Posted by) Level 3
This inefficiency in the food economy has implications for health, food security, food marketing and climate change, noted Edward Jaenicke, professor of agricultural economics, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State.

"Our findings are consistent with previous studies, which have shown that 30% to 40% of the total food supply in the United States goes uneaten -- and that means that resources used to produce the uneaten food, including land, energy, water and labor, are wasted as well," Jaenicke said. "But this study is the first to identify and analyze the level of food waste for individual households, which has been nearly impossible to estimate because comprehensive, current data on uneaten food at the household level do not exist."

Researchers - Limitation - Methodology - Fields - Production

The researchers overcame this limitation by borrowing methodology from the fields of production economics -- which models the production function of transforming inputs into outputs -- and nutritional science, by which a person's height, weight, gender and age can be used to calculate metabolic energy requirements to maintain body weight.

In this novel approach, Jaenicke and Yang Yu, doctoral candidate in agricultural, environmental and regional economics, analyzed data primarily from 4,000 households that participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, known as FoodAPS. Food-acquisition data from this survey were treated as the "input."

FoodAPS - Measures - Participants - Researchers - Formulas

FoodAPS also collected biological measures of participants, enabling the researchers to apply formulas from nutritional science to determine basal metabolic rates and calculate the energy required for household members to maintain body weight, which is the "output." The difference between the amount of food acquired and the amount needed to maintain body weight represents the production inefficiency in the model, which translates to uneaten, and therefore wasted, food.

"Based on our estimation, the average American household wastes 31.9% of the food it acquires," Jaenicke said. "More than...
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