A recent article at the New Scientist gives some startling estimates of the amount of food that is wasted in the US. Current estimates are that about 16 percent of energy consumption in the US is tied to food production, distribution, storage, and preparation. Yet, according to a paper [abstract, PDF link to full paper available] by Amanda Cuéllar and Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology by the American Chemical Society, about 25% of food produced is wasted (and this is surely an underestimate, since it does not count food wasted “on the farm”, or waste in fishing). From this, the authors calculate that about 2.15 × 1015 kiloJoules of energy is effectively wasted on the production of food that is thrown away.
That’s more than could be gained from many popular strategies to improve energy efficiency. It is also more than projections for how much energy the US could produce by making ethanol biofuel from grains.
The biggest areas of waste are in dairy foods and vegetables.
This really is an astonishingly large number. The only bright spot is this: just think how fat some of our fellow citizens would be if it were all eaten — not a pretty picture.