Good & Fugly recently undertook a major research project to analyse the causes behind food waste in Australia, and what it costs the nation. Here's the scoop.
Food waste is a $20 billion problem and while the climate impact of food waste is significant, the ones really bearing the weight of this cost are farmers.
So much of the hard, back-breaking labour that farmers provide goes to waste, and often for the most silly of reasons. But there are things that we can all do, that not only benefit our dinner plates, but will go a long way to helping our farmers, too.
You have no idea how much you’re helping Aussie farmers by buying Good & Fugly…
We recently published The Farm To Supermarket Food Waste Report 2023 – our first in-depth research into the impact that food waste has on Aussie farmers. For a great story about it, check out this must read by the Guardian.
You may already know that 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste, and it’s a major sustainability challenge that we all face. What you might not be aware of is that food waste threatens the viability of Australian farmers.
And so much of that food waste is totally preventable. So much of it is food that has no supermarket buyer because it’s not pretty enough.
As this report shows, by giving farmers the opportunity to sell this produce, not only are you helping to save the environment, but you’re helping to save Australian agriculture, too.
Let’s Drill Into The Numbers
First, the big, scary figure: $20 billion is lost to the economy through food waste. Farmers bear the bulk of that burden.
68% of farmers reported that the single most common cause of food waste in the supply chain is, incredibly, 'appearance'. By contrast, only 26% reported that produce is rejected due to ripeness, and 9% that pest infestation is a reason. Those two things would make sense since they compromise the flavour and may pose a health risk. Appearance, however, is not.
When produce is rejected, farmers often have little choice but to give it away (to the same supermarkets who rejected it, no less) for free. 23% of farmers reported that supermarkets expect them to hand over the rejected produce for free. Otherwise, they often find themselves selling it at a steep discount (35%).
A further 19% throw the produce away (immediately creating food waste).
Sometimes farmers can become innovative and repurpose that rejected produce into jams, marmalades and soaps (32%), however, that’s capital-intensive work.
The silver lining is that 37% of farmers can find an alternate buyer for the produce. This is where services like Good & Fugly have come in in recent years, to help create those alternative pathways that farmers so clearly need.
Just How Much Are Farmers Losing?
The cost of rejected deliveries is significant. A larger farmer can lose $50,000 or more in produce this way.
And this number doesn’t account for the amount of produce that farmers reject themselves. Many farmers, expecting that a supermarket will reject produce, and seeking to cut their losses before it enters the supply chain, will reject a percentage of the crops themselves. This can be up to 30% of their product.
In the background to all of this, almost half (42%) of farmers are reporting lower profits thanks to the economy, and meanwhile, 70% are reporting higher operating costs.
It’s an unsustainable squeeze, and the smaller growers – who often produce the most interesting and tasty crops – are the ones struggling the most. 75% of smaller farmers are worried about rising production costs, and 44% of them are worried that they have no control over product pricing (and thus, their potential profitability).
What Can Be Done?
For Australians who want to help out their local growers, the first and most obvious thing is to eat more local produce! Take this as an opportunity to explore new recipes and try things in the kitchen – put aside some of the processed, packaged, and frozen food, and give fresh a go where you can!
Secondly, help to break the dominance of the big supermarkets. One of the reasons that farmers feel so out of control right now is that they don’t have many options to sell to in the first place. By sourcing your household’s fruit and veg through Good & Fugly, you are doing your part there, as we have no interactions with supermarkets.
And, finally, help spread awareness. Share the report around so that people know what conditions farmers are struggling with. One of the greatest challenges in fighting food waste is raising awareness in the first place, because for many of us, agriculture is something out of sight and out of mind.
Together we can ensure that future iterations of The Farm To Supermarket Food Waste Report are more positive in tone, and help Australia be healthier, eating better, and more sustainable.