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Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal
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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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Top customer reviews
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.