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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Tristram Stuart is an energetic and talented individual who has turned an early hobby, thinking about food waste, into a life-consuming passion. Unfortunately, his data and associated conclusions are sometimes limited, but he makes up for that with honesty and common-sense. Stuart begins with a U.N. estimate that the world's agricultural land may decline in productivity by up to 25% this century, thereby making food availability a serious matter. (Worse yet is the projected growth in world population from its current 6.8 billion to 8.9 billion by 2050 - a 31% increase.) Stuart believes that about half of the world's food is wasted, though some of that is debatable - eg. feeding leftover human foods to farm animals, 'growing' biofuels. Regardless of the precise amount, as Stuart points out, the food waste is considerable, and this also wastes energy and adds to global warming.

Sources of waste exist all along the food chain. For example, farmers may grow 25% extra to ensure meeting contracts (and avoid expensive penalties) with acceptable volume and quality, large numbers of fish are thrown back (most die) because they are too small or the wrong species. Stuart goes on to point out that farmers lose additional amounts, especially in third-world nations, due to inadequate storage, lack of refrigeration, and exposure to sunlight. Food packagers and retailers create more waste through largely aesthetic standards and overstocking (especially at smaller stores) to avoid potentially lost sales - eg. minimizing the appearance of 'picked over' shelf-stock. How do aesthetic standards create waste - some packagers (eg. Birdseye), per Stuart, prohibit the resale of rejected product, or require it to be used for animal feed. "Sell-by" dates add more losses (I always pick through Twinkies to get the newest). And finally, U.S. and European consumers, especially single-individual homes, throw out even more. (Stuart also considers as waste the amount of food that too-many of us consume while overeating.)

Fortunately, remedies are as numerous as sources. Stuart notes considerable cultural differences - eg. Uighurs in western China are serious of making good use of food, while the Chinese Hans living in the same area see overfilling plates as being hospitable. In general, Stuart picks Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea as examples of cultures that waste much less food; it is tempting to suggest that North Korea probably is way ahead of even those three nations, but that would indeed be in poor taste - it is, a reminder, however, of the topic's importance. Farmers in the U.S. tend to band together and/or use futures markets more than their European counterparts to handle the risk of not filling sale contracts; other helpful tactics Stuart found included shaving down non-aesthetic carrots into 'young' carrots, micro-loans to provide spoil- and rat-proof storage, and selling vegetables rejected for appearance to caterers. (The latter is a bit funny - you're pay more at many restaurants, for cheaper vegetables, and to help avoid waste!). Stuart has also found that vending via Farmers' Markets reduces the volume of appearance out-grades. As for fishermen, changing the hooks used, the type of line (single long-line with multiple hooks, vs. many short ones), net construction and composition, and stopping the killing of sharks for their fins helps reduce needless loss of fish, and turtles, dolphins, and albatross as well.

Bottom Line: "Waste" is an easy, informative, and credible read about an important topic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2010
Tristram Stuart's WASTE: UNCOVERING THE GLOBAL FOOD SCANDAL tells the overlooked story of how what we don't eat is destroying our environment. About 50 percent of all food is wasted by farmers and manufacturers - enough to food the world's hungry and more. Solutions to this problem are provided in a survey of the issue, human food chain waste habits, and how they may be remedied.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2010
Insightful introduction to a topic that begs for a lot more scholarship, research, and writing.

If there's something I took away, it's the importance of 1) Reducing; 2) Redistributing; 3) Recycling. In other words, whenever possible, waste should be reduced-- eliminated from all stages of the farm --> fork chain. More flexible and fair relationships between farmer/producers and supermarket buyers, less aesthetically stringent and really unnecessary standards, supermarkets' willingness to forgo the illusion of a constant cornucopia of a harvest, and many other factors would contribute to such a reduction. Stuart also goes into how food waste might be reduced in the fishing, restaurant, and catering businesses, etc. Next, food ought to be redistributed-- given to the poor, rather than needlessly and heartlessly landfilled. Here, Stuart seems to regard food as a basic human right, and I have some problem with his rather idealistic urge to supermarkets and producers to just give the leftovers or extras to the hungry. (He suggests, for example, that food be given directly within supermarkets to those on state benefits or who belong to particular groups. Finally, Stuart touches upon the importance of recycling, and how food waste should, as much as possible, be funneled as high as it might right back into the food chain. And here it is that he praises pigs to the sky as excellent purveyors of waste, marvelous magicians at turning inedible junk into plump flesh. If feeding waste to animals like pigs or chickens isn't possible, though, Stuart urges for anaerobic digestion or composting, anything save landfilling.

After reading this book, I did some research online and was heartened to find that there have been many efforts at linking together producers and buyers in a much more direct and efficient manner, such that waste might be diminished and costs from transportation/warehousing/refrigerating decreased. Check out: [...], or [...], for example. What I'd really like to see is a Facebook/Craigslist/Amazon-esque site for farmer/producers, such that they might 1) Break free of imbalanced relationships with buyers/supermarkets; 2) Be able to sell more of their product, both in terms of quantity produced, such that less might be thrown away post-harvest, and the fruit/vegetable/animal itself. There's bound to be a market for essentially every part of the _______, after all, and with the markedly decreased transaction costs effected by the Internet, producers should be able to find more easily buyers who want whatever that _______ might be, whether 'tis chicken legs or potato skins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
Very comprehensive, very well researched, furthermore, the author walks the talk- he is successfully using waste for everyday living, not just as a subject for a lively, vivid book. It is especially relevant for all us "civilized" societies and offers a perfect philosophical perspective on the subject: waste is the other side of the coin in our lives which we often prefer to ignore. Nothing is more expensive than a free lunch.
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on November 3, 2013
Easily one of my all-time favorite eye-opening books. I highly recommend this book to those in the food industry, who care about global supply chain, food supply/shortages and/or who value an understanding of "what went wrong" in our global food system. I also highly recommend Stuffed and Starved, a longer read, but relevant topic matter and another fantastic book.
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on May 15, 2013
In "Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal," Tristram Stuart reveals the ugly and massive scale of the food waste problem, along with the "connectedness" of the global food system and the negative impact of the wasteful habits of rich countries on less developed countries and the environment.

Stuart provides a reality check and shows that we need to think differently about our food; noting that we produce more than enough food now - and that we are capable of feeding all of the hungry people in the world if we stop wasting food and use those resources effectively.

He educates us on the severity of the problem throughout the food chain, including issues at the supermarket level (where overstocking and displays of "perfect" produce lead to substantial waste) as well as issues at the manufacturing level, where that same quest for perfection - along with overproduction and minimal costs associated with environmental externalities - leads to additional waste.

He also covers many other key themes including the extent of household waste, the waste resulting from confusion over sell-by dates, the alarming waste in our fisheries, the value of using all parts of animals, and the need for infrastructure investment to reduce losses from spoilage in less developed areas where hunger is already a severe problem.

Stuart effectively makes the link to climate change and shows that our culture of waste puts enormous pressure on the environment; as we seek to grow more and more food we consume more and more land, deplete finite resources, and pollute our air and water. He notes that we all need to look not only at wasted food but to all of the resources that went into producing it, the resources consumed in the discard process, and the ensuing environmental harm as wasted food decomposes in landfills.

Stuart shows us that as consumers, we have the power to influence retailers and hence drive change through the supply chain. We become more aware that we have a social responsibility to make a concerted effort to reduce our food waste and make good use of those resources when nearly one billion individuals on the planet are hungry. Stuart provides awareness of the need for change, and notes that we would be well advised to reflect on lessons in frugality from our past (such as the World War II era), and from specific cultures (like the Uighurs).

In sum, when it comes to food waste and the larger food system that drives it, we need a serious "rethink" - and Stuart lays the groundwork beautifully to lead us down that path. "Waste" is an outstanding work; a great read for those interested in the nine billion by 2050 problem and the potential for reductions in food waste to help mitigate it. It is a call to everyone - especially to those in rich countries - that wasting 30-50% of food produced is indeed a "scandal" of global proportions and is not sustainable.
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on April 9, 2013
It was a great book and covered every aspect of food waste. Really helps you look at food and waste and grocery shopping differently. There were a lot of numbers though and that made it difficult to keep things straight sometimes. Good book overall
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on February 14, 2013
Mr. Stuart has certainly a way of writing that positively brings home the importance of a major issue that is kept discreetly behind the scenes. I would hope that some of the people who have a say and can truly change things would get more involved in the solutions rather than contributing to the continuing problem.
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on April 10, 2011
"Waste" provide good insight into the problems with food waste and some suggestions for mimimizing the problems. If more people were aware of the magnitude of food waste, each of us would do something to minimize the waste and the negative impact that waste has on the environment.
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on April 29, 2015
bought it for my wifes class ...
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