Food Waste Statistics, The Reality Of Food Waste

Food Waste in America Statistics


With the advent of social media, social and consumer awareness about food waste is at an all-time high. One topic that’s been extensively covered, and for good reason, is the food waste epidemic in the U.S. Newsfeeds are full of videos of eco-conscious consumers showing the carelessness with which food waste is handled, and the outcry is real.

That being said, few consumers understand how bad the food waste problem really is.

Here are some food waste statistics that are truly staggering:

  • In the United States, between 30-40 percent of the food produced is wasted. That accounts for 133 Billion pounds, or $161 Billion dollars.
  • Americans throw away almost twice as much food as any other developed country.
  • Total food loss is valued at $218 billion in the U.S. and $31 billion in Canada.

Food waste isn’t just a consumer issue, it has roots throughout the supply chain.

Farming Food Waste Statistics

  • 21 to 33 percent of U.S. agricultural water use goes to food that is ultimately wasted.
  • 18 to 28 percent of our viable cropland is used for growing wasted food.
  • The USDA estimates that about 4 percent or 66,500 acres of planted crops are left unharvested each year.
  • A study in Minnesota found that up to 20 percent of fruits and vegetables are too large, small, or don’t otherwise meet cosmetic standards, and thus aren’t viable.

Manufacturing Food Waste Statistics

  • Manufacturing and processing food (such as canning, freezing, drying, and precutting) creates about 4 percent in food loss across all types of food.
  • Although manufacturing processes are increasing efficiency, the amount of food waste from expired, recalled, or unsold full packaged goods that are landfilled is staggering.

Distribution of Food Waste Statistics

  • 2-5 percent of all food products are lost because buyers reject shipments due to cosmetic imperfections, surplus, or other issues like improper transportation or handling.

Retail Food Waste Statistics

  • 10 percent or 43 billion pounds of food in grocery stores will never make it off the shelf. For produce, about 12 percent of fruit and 11.5 percent of vegetables are never sold.
  • 30% of a grocery store’s trash is food waste.

The Bigger Issue

Yes, simply wasting food is a bad situation, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Food that is not eaten ends up in landfills, where it rots and produces greenhouse gasses. If food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the US & China.  Food waste is 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. So the solution to food waste isn’t just preventing food from being wasted – it is handling the waste that is created correctly.

What Can We Do?

According to a recent poll, 88% of Americans are trying to reduce food waste. At Quest we understand this goal – it’s part of who we are as a company. We work with hundreds of restaurant locations, retailers, and food manufacturers to not only make sure that their processes are as efficient as possible but that any food waste that remains is handled correctly. This includes everything from recycling programs in food and beverage plants, to donating restaurant scraps to animals.


Get Started Today!
Recycle More, Save More, Feel Good.