Updated: Sep 21, 2022
I first really saw how our fruit and veg has to pass the visual test for consumers when I was trying to find a decent looking banana at a fruit stall in Brazil and I thought I had just caught the traders on a bad day with a bad harvest. Upon enquiry my translator relayed from the stall holder that all the nice ones had gone to Europe and that I would just have to settle for a specimen with bruises and blemishes like it had been flung around as a boomerang. I don’t think any of the ones on offer would have made it on the boat or plane to the culinary catwalks of our fruit and veg aisles.
I also remember the queues at a market in London on Saturday evenings at closing up time when the old and rejected fruit and veg would be given away for next to nothing to the more cash strapped customers and they were not too worried about the odd looking one or two battered cabbages or oranges.
The reality is that right across the food grower spectrum farmers and producers are punished by the supermarkets and middle men if their fruit or veg does not meet the strict criteria for beauty and size never mind the low prices they get. It shows how fussy and spoiled we have become as shoppers when the slightest breach of uniformity will mean we reject a carrot that has decided to grow a little bit differently.
I was given a bag of home-grown organic golden wonder spuds lately and they went from little to large with plenty of bumps, knobbly bits and cracks but they tasted just wonderful as the name would imply. I reckon most of them would have not made the good looking grade to make it to your pot.
You see diversity is not celebrated in the commercial food world as every item must look like it came off the same mechanical production line of nature. Alas nature has other ideas but the sad bit is that most of the rejects will be dumped and the loss of them is factored into the final price paid by you at the end and to the growers in the beginning at farm gate.
So not only are we dumping a third of what we buy when we have let them go off or mouldy at home when we finally get the fresh produce shopping back to the house but there is probably the same loss again at the other end when the produce does not meet the wholesaler standards to have it paraded in front of us when it is time for it to be bought.
Finally there is another loss when the stuff does not sell fast enough and even the good looking produce that made the grade in the first place also gets dumped. So how mad is all of that when the figures are broken down for you? Then we are told there is not enough food to feed the world when there probably is if we just copped ourselves on.
So the question to ask then, is there the slightest possibility that things might change in the future whereby we might just accept, buy and even eat all of a crop? Well, the answer is no in my opinion. We are far too conditioned at this stage of the game of food monopoly to change anything.
Big food economics is a jungle and you eat or be eaten up. Everything that grows which we can eat and be nourished from is a gift from the land but the appreciation is not there by the market or the consumer. For me, only the organic growers come out of this smelling of roses. It is a sad reflection on society and whatever punishment we get from Mother Nature further down the line we will deserve every lash of her wrath.
#foodwaste #supermarketpower #foodeconomics #agriculture #bordbia #farming #climatecrisis #futureoffood #EU
Carrot photo courtesy of Patrice Calamel/Tomato photo courtesy of Nicola Royston