NFU Horticulture and Potatoes board member, and Director of Produce World, Andrew Burgess, talks about the need to think more creatively when it comes to reducing food waste.
We have more mouths to feed and less land to feed them. As populations are growing so is the problem of food waste. The industry side of the debate was highlighted in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste series on the BBC, with great emphasis placed on the responsibility of supermarkets towards the volume of product rejected and thrown away. However, as a major component of the supply chain we all have a shared responsibility to do our very best within our operations to tackle the issue.
At Produce World fresh vegetables are our business and naturally we want them all to be eaten, but the complexity and challenges faced within fresh produce supply chains means that waste is unavoidable.
We have committed to managing our waste differently; doing what we feel is the right thing rather than the easiest thing, firstly, by addressing the produce passing through our packhouses. Innovative packaging solutions to extend shelf life for consumers and the addition of value packs are just part of the solution.
We are committed to collaborative relationships with our growers and our customers alike; in doing so we are able to forecast supply and demand with greater accuracy, negotiate with our customers on product specification changes and reduce the prevalence of waste within our supply chains. It has to be said that the best way to reduce waste is to redefine what is meant by quality, does it mean visual perfection & calliper measurement or should we redefine it according to convenience, ease of preparation & its appearance & flavour on the plate? Just leaving more “minor defects” in the pack could reduce waste vegetables by around 10%.
Nevertheless, a degree of waste is inevitable but we believe that food should reach human consumption wherever possible. Since 2013, Produce World have partnered with Feedback and FareShare, redirecting waste vegetables to people who live in food poverty. Gleaning UK (a Feedback initiative) recover surplus crop directly from the field through volunteer groups and FareShare redistribute outgrade vegetables from regional hubs, supplying charities nationwide. By collaborating with these organisations, we are addressing our supply chain waste whilst contributing invaluable resources to those in greatest need.
Food waste and food poverty are major issues affecting society today and a problem bigger than the industry itself; in the home we waste 7 million tonnes of food yearly at a cost of £12.5 billion, yet simultaneously in the UK 5.8 million people are facing food poverty*. Since 2014 we have taken part in IGD’s Working on Waste initiative, to inspire our colleagues to do their bit to reduce waste in their homes. We are doing our best on this issue but there is always room for improvement.
Trials field gleaning with Gleaning UK - 2013
Cauliflower gleaning with Gleaning Network UK- 2014
*Love Food Hate Waste: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/content/about-food-waste-1