We should stop throwing away food

I was dismayed by this report that dairy producers are concerned about the overproduction of milk resulting in prices dropping too low and so they are dumping milk down the drain.

This kind of action appalls me. I am one who on a personal level hates to waste food and tries to ensure that no good food is ever thrown away. The statistics about the amount of food waste in the US is depressing. There is a great deal of hunger in the world and the idea that economics demands that food be deliberately dumped seems to me to be a failure of imagination about how to deal with this precious commodity.

It is bad enough that farmers in the US are paid to not cultivate their lands and that there was a time when wheat was actually dumped into the ocean because bumper crops threatened the price support system. I hope that at least this practice has ended because while milk is perishable and hard to store for long times, wheat can be stored and transported quite easily.

As long as famine and hunger and food insecurity exist, surely we can think of ways to protect farmers from going bankrupt while not throwing away food that can alleviate the suffering of so many.


  1. mnb0 says

    ” surely we can think of ways to protect farmers from going bankrupt while not throwing away food that can alleviate the suffering of so many.”
    I sympathize with this, but it seems not so easy. The EU has been dumping food in African countries in the past, ruining local economies ….. no prizes for guessing who suffered.

  2. oualawouzou says

    Here in Québec, a few years ago, I came across a story about a farmer who was being sued by the UPA (farmer’s union). His crime was that he had given his excess eggs to a food bank without authorization. So… Yeah. I don’t have anything to add.

  3. rhebel says

    Milk can be stored long term by many methods–dehydrated, fermented into cheese and yogurt, whey separation, and others. No reason to dump BUT some entity needs to pay the minimum price to allow for these. The problem is that the entities– governments or otherwise, that must do this, will not.

  4. lorn says

    Milk can be sterilized and packaged in specialized containers that allows it to be stored at room temperature indefinitely. Listed as 6 to 9 months according to the Wiki page:

    Drinking some sorts of tea I found it easier on digestion to add a small amount of milk. The amount used was so small per day that even small containers of normal milk would be more than half wasted even if I stored the opened container in the refrigerator. The problem went away when I used the small packages of UHT milk. Even an opened container would remain usable for a couple of days at room temperature. The unopened containers remained usable for many months at room temperature ( Roughly 80F in my un-airconditioned apartment in Florida), at least one container, well over a year.

    Milk could also be converted to milk powder and stored long term or made into cheese. I realize that the free-market forces militate against this sort of salvage because it tends to disrupt markets but it goes against my grain to waste something so potentially useful when so many people around the world are hungry and in desperate need of good quality protein.

  5. sundoga says

    This is not as easy a question as it first looks. Dumping of excess food to keep prices up keeps farms viable despite, in most years, overproduction of food. This pays off in the lean years when we have, say, widespread drought, early onset of winter ruining crops, or flooding events – we still make enough food despite all that to keep the big cities well-fed and happy. Remember that the average western city is only three days from starvation – continuous movement of foodstuffs from the farm to the storage depot to the processing plants to the warehouses to the stores is an absolute necessity.
    We could take the excess and either store it or send it to “needy” areas, but attempts to do the former have foundered on storage space – sooner or later all your warehouses are full, you have hundreds, thousands or millions of tonnes of food no one wants and you can’t sell any of it or you’ll put the farms out of business, so you end up dumping food anyway. Sending it to the third world just destroys the local economies and makes them even more dependent on our largesse – a largesse that, with the best intentions possible, must eventually end.
    The problems of starvation in the developing nations are not solvable by the developed ones in large part, because they are intimately tied up with social problems, lack of infrastructure (which we cannot solve – foreign aid is actually for that, and it doesn’t work) and local economics. It’s even more frustrating that a lot of these difficulties were CAUSED by our interference – yet we are powerless to solve them. They can only be solved by local solutions. We can help, we can support, but the impetus must be local or it just doesn’t work.
    Currently, despite our massive population, we actually make significantly more food on a global basis each year than needs to be consumed. Transportation and logistics are problems, but solvable ones. Resolve the local problems, and hunger goes away. But we’ll still be dumping food.

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