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3759173 - friesian (holstein) dairy cows grazing on lush green pasture

The average farmer spends close to 20% of production costs on fertilizer. Unfortunately, a quarter of that fertilizer is futile when the food is wasted.

With the global epidemic of food waste, valuable on-farm inputs are thrown out along with the food. For example,19% of all fertilizer is lost to food waste in the United States; worldwide that number increases to 23%.

Of the 1 billion metric tons of food lost or wasted globally, 56% occurs in developed countries, according to World Resources Institute (WRI), United Nations and USDA. Farmers and consumers in the U.S. are mostly bearing the brunt of food waste—to the tune of $15 billion.

Reducing food waste can be powerful in two ways: Producers can increase profits and become more sustainable by adopting preventative measures and consumers can save money by wasting less and being more conscious of purchasing and preparation decisions.

Adopt promising solutions

Understanding where, how much and why food is wasted is the foundation for preventing food loss at the farm level. When it comes to food loss, one way farmers can work to prevent it is to train their employees to improve food handling practices, such as reducing bruising and damage to produce by proper handling.

In addition to offering guidance to policymakers on how to raise awareness and make redistributing wasted food less cumbersome, WRI also advises farmers to reduce food waste with the following tactics:

  • Harvest crops at the right time

  • Use reliable weather data to forecast rainfall and projected temperatures

  • Strengthen connections with retailers when marketing fresh food

“The key to success is taking a systems approach that addresses loss and waste throughout the supply chain,” says Kyle Poorman, communications manager for the Consortium for Innovation in Post-Harvest Loss and Food Waste Reduction. “The approaches may be different depending on crop, location and other factors, but looking across the value chain will be fundamental in reducing loss and waste.”

ood waste at home

In North America, 58% of food loss and waste occurs in homes. There are several steps that can be taken at the household level to combat food waste. Meal planning, building grocery lists before shopping, freezing foods, understanding expiration dates and using a little creativity can go a long way in reducing food waste.

An average family of four in the U.S. spends $1,800 per year on food that’s later wasted. But what’s the root cause of this number?

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Americans are visual eaters. In the U.S., blemished produced is unappealing and, for many citizens, makes them think it’s poorer quality.

Compounding waste issues, consumers often confuse sell-by dates with expiration dates and toss foods earlier than necessary. For example, 20% of dairy products are wasted in North America.

The road to eliminating food loss and waste is a long and challenging one. The greatest way to reduce the magnitude of food waste is through prevention. Adopting a preventative strategy could increase profits for businesses and retailers by $1.9 billion.

To explore strategies for success in 2023 for the dairy industry, we invited Muzaffar Yunusov, lead of key account management at the IFCN Dairy Research Network, to speak at Alltech ONE Budapest.

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