The rise of “ugly” food
In a world where looks are sometimes deemed more important than anything else, sadly even food gets judged on its appearance.
In restaurants around the world, many chefs refuse to serve produce that they deem to be “ugly”. Instead
That means that any piece of produce seeming to be imperfect is simply tossed away. And that’s a travesty, especially in a world where, according to the Food Aid Foundation, around 800 million people do not have enough food on a daily basis to keep themselves healthy.
In fact, food wastage has become such a problem in first world countries that around 33% of all food gets wasted each year, according
. That’s around 1.3 billion tons, which is more than enough to feed the percentage of the world’s population deemed to be in food crisis twice annually. And in monetary value, that’s around $680 billion per annum in terms of food loss and wastage. Simply staggering!
Bu t there is hope!
Chefs such as , who is a leading light in the world of sustainable food, “ugly” food is slowly taking its rightful place on plates around the world. And that can only be a good thing, especially in helping to lower food wastage numbers.
Let’s take a closer look.
Sustainable food and its impact
We are very lucky to have chefs like Dan Barber in the world. For years, Barber has promoted the concept of sustainable food. But not just in the restaurant scene.
Barber’s efforts ensure food wastage stops from the farmer’s field, the very beginning of the food chain. And he has even written a book on the concept.
Called “The Third Plate”, Barber’s book asks readers to not only concern themselves with just one ingredient in the “ugly” food scenario, say a less than perfect carrot. He encourages readers to look at the larger concept of ethical eating.
And Barber’s influence is growing, thankfully. So much so that he was included on Time Magazine’s list 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.
But how does Barber envisage that we make food more sustainable? Well, he lives by his word, that’s for sure.
For example, Barber has a farm in Massachusetts where his free-range hens, who provide eggs for his restaurants, receive restaurant scraps. Barber sites another example of a colleagues pigs who consume skimmed milk, a by-product of butter.
Both of these are exceptional examples of just how sustainable food can work! Sadly it continues to be an uphill battle.
It’s time for EVERYONE to change…
It’s not only chefs that want to present perfect food on their plates. Sadly, farmers, when presented with less than perfect food are often forced to dump it. In fact, 46% of the produce farmed each year on the planet never leaves the farm. It is simply dumped because its not attractive enough.
Why? Well, would you believe it that governments regulate “ugly” food? While this is changing, up until recently, the European Union had rules in place when it came to produce.
Yes, they had to meet certain dimensions, have certain forms, and even be certain colour shades. These are just some of the criteria used to sort them. And if a vegetable or fruit didn’t make the grade it was simply thrown away.
Not given to needy countries where famine and food shortages are rife. No…
Just thrown away.
Luckily, the European Union saw the absolute folly in these laws and have repelled them. Thanks to people like Dan Barber and other sustainable food activists, “ugly” food has turned sexy!
And with marketers involved, the somewhat derogatory name of “ugly” food has become different things in different countries. For example, a large French supermarket chain has chosen to call imperfect produce “inglorious” while in Britain, less than perfect produce is “wonky”. Perhaps our favourite, however, comes from Canada where one of their large stores terms “ugly” food as “naturally imperfect”.
And that’s what it is. A carrot with a few bumps on it or an unsightly bend tastes just the same as one that looks perfect.
It’s slowly changing, thankfully!
Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom. Through the efforts of people such as Dan Barber in the United States and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in Europe, more and more people are coming around to “ugly” food. Charities like WRAP have also stepped into the fight by helping to promote the fight against food wastage.
And we have already mentioned the fact that the European Union has drastically changed their laws regarding what may and may not be sent out to markets. The United Nations are jumping onto the “ugly” food bandwagon. It is the intention of this world body to help cut food wastage by half by the year 2030.
That not only helps to feed the poor, they also:
• Helps fight climate change through reduced greenhouse gases from wasted food
• Helps to fight hunger and malnutrition by giving nutritious food to the hungry
• Helps farmers by allowing them to sell all their produce, not just the perfect examples
You can help too!
The thing is, while its important that these organizations with worldwide influence get involved in helping to reduce food wastage, we need each and every person on the planet to make a difference.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
So bear that in mind the next time you find a less than perfect vegetable. It’s time to become an ethical eater, for the sake of our planet and its people.
- World hunger statistics retrieved from Food Aid foundation website. https://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html
- Dan Barber’s Third Plate information retrieved from https://www.thethirdplate.com/
- Why people are falling in love with ugly food article retrieved from TIME magazine https://time.com/3761942/why-people-are-falling-in-love-with-ugly-food/
- Food waste statistics retrieved from the article, The beautiful thing about eating ugly retrieved published by Groundwork https://www.groundworkpresents.com/beautiful-thing-about-eating-ugly/
- Other food waste statitics retrieved from the article No time for leftovers: The astonishing scale of food waste in the UK and around the world published in the Telegraph online section, 2 January 2018. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/02/no-time-leftovers-astonishing-scale-food-waste-uk-around-world/
- European food waste statistics retrieved from the European Union https://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste_en