Americans throw out a pound of food a day

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Fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat. They estimate that this food waste is equivalent too the use of 30 million acres of land every year, and 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water annually.

To come up with their estimates, the researchers collected data on food intake and diet quality from a USDA national database.

This is first research to explore the links between diet quality, food waste and environment impacts.

Notably, of 22 food groups studied, the researchers found that much of what people threw away was foods that are generally considered to be key parts of healthy diets, rather than junk food.

New food waste research from the U.S. unveils the shocking truths about the amount of food tossed out every day and it is people with healthier diets rich in fresh produce that are among the worst offenders.

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Historically, the small swine operations located near major cities served as significant users of food scraps and waste.

The study found that between 2007-2014, Americans wasted about 150,000 tons of food daily. And throwing our food into the trash wastes the land, labor, and resources that went into producing it.

"Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food", says Meredith Niles, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont and co-author of the study.

About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in United States households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes.

The study found that the healthiest Americans are the most wasteful, due to their high consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are frequently thrown out.

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Table 1: Comparison of energy and nutrient content (dry matter basis) of four sources of food waste with corn and soybean meal for use in swine diets.

Niles highlights efforts to reduce food waste, including French grocer Intermarché's "inglorious fruits and vegetables" campaign, which promotes the cooking of "the disfigured eggplant", "the ugly carrot", and other healthy, but otherwise superficially damaged produce. Using data from various USA government sources, the researchers estimated the amount of agricultural inputs, including irrigation water, pesticides and fertilizers, used to produce uneaten food.

The researchers note that while their study used the best-available food survey data, there are limitations to it and that additional research is needed.

The amount of land used annually to grow food that ends up in the garbage in the United States is 30 million acres, or seven percent of total USA cropland. "A healthy diet isn't necessarily bad for the environment if consumers are sensitive to factors such as perishability when they shop and cook", she says. "Looking at them holistically will become increasingly important to finding sustainable ways of meeting the needs of a growing world population", says lead author Zach Conrad at the ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota. This includes low nutritional value and higher rates of cropland wasted.

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