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Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393068368
ISBN-10: 9780393068368
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stuart (The Bloodless Revolution) writes of the perilous illusion of abundance and how countries can reduce food waste by accurately examining how much they toss away due to poor storage or unused surplus—and why. European and American food manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers throw away between 30% and 50% of their food supply—enough to feed the world's hungry. Waste also occurs as a result of inadequate harvesting and farming techniques, prevalent in countries like Pakistan, where the author examines the need for better grain harvesting and land cultivation. Stuart's thoughtful illumination of the problem and his proposed solutions are bound to get even the most complacent citizen thinking about how slowly wilting vegetables might have a second life. Simply growing more food, Stuart argues, is not necessarily the answer. Agriculture takes up space and often results in deforestation. If rich countries could cut waste by treating food more carefully, while developing countries gained the equipment necessary to improve their output, he contends, a significant reduction in global food waste—and even global hunger—could be achieved. Stuart's brief is passionately argued and rigorously researched, and is an important contribution to the discussion of sustainability. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“The world faces incredibly difficult challenges―we simply can't afford the kind of crazy waste Tristram Stuart uncovers and describes in this beautifully reported work. It's nauseating in places, but ultimately hopeful: if we got serious about preventing this waste, we might just find the margin we need to deal with our biggest problems.” (Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy)

“In Waste, Tristram Stuart...ingeniously unites many food scandals that often do not get the attention they deserve...Usefully, Stuart offers examples of what we could be doing better, from processing technologies to offal sausages.” (New Scientist)

“Jaw-dropping ...compelling―a must-read... Stuart has an unanswerable case.” (Bee Wilson - The Sunday Times [London])

“Book of the Week: Stuart’s book is passionate, closely argued and guaranteed to make the most manic consumer peer guiltily into the recesses of their fridge.” (Sunday Telegraph [London])

“An extremely thought-provoking, passionate study which could make even the biggest skeptic think twice before putting the leftovers in the bin.” (Scotland on Sunday)

“Tristram Stuart lifts the lid on the obscene levels of produce ending up in landfill....Read it and weep.” (The Sun [London])

“This is a first class book, as copiously referenced as any academic report, yet both blunt and incisive―the sort of book one can expect only from someone who gets his hands mucky as well as inky.” (Simon Fairlie - The Land)

“This is one of those books that everybody should read....It may well change your view of the way we treat food forever.” (Paul Kingsnorth - The Independent [UK])

“Deftly illuminates the global consequences of our choices about what to eat.” (Tom Standage - BBC Focus Magazine)

“Passionate, closely argued and guaranteed to make the most manic consumer peer guiltily into the recesses of their fridge.” (John Preston - Seven)

“Every day all around the globe, appallingly enormous amounts of otherwise edible food go to waste even while humans are starving. Stuart aims to educate people about where such waste occurs, how much of it there is, and what possible steps can be undertaken to reduce it substantially if not eliminate it altogether.... Notes and a huge bibliography lead readers to additional resources on this pressing environmental issue.” (Mark Knoblauch - Booklist)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780393068368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393068368
  • ASIN: 0393068366
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on December 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wonderful book. The author has done on-the-ground research in countries ranging the UK (his homeland) to Pakistan and China. He is in the rare position of being a college-educated person who has lived as a freegan (someone who lives off of free food, often that discarded by supermarkets and restaurants). It was fascinating to see what a broad range there is across countries in regulations and cultural attitudes toward food waste. It truly is scandalous just how much food we waste in a world where there is rampant food insecurity. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never been one to waste food and have always been upset at others who did so. But I had NO IDEA of the amount of food wastage in the entire industry. In rich, industrialized countries, it is estimated that out of the total food harvested (counting wastage at every level of production), 60% never makes it to consumers' mouths. This is not just vegetable waste; millions of animals are killed and then WASTED each year. It made me so angry and even sick to my stomach to read certain chapters of this book (not because the writing is disgusting in any way, but because of what people are doing).

There is also an excellent 15-minute TED talk on this subject by the author, Tristam Stewart, for anyone who is interested in a short version of what this is all about.
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