Can Ugly Fruits And Vegetables Help Solve World Hunger?

by Olalekan Abdulsalami on 14 Feb 2020 • 3 comments
4 min read

About a third of the planet’s food goes to waste, often because of its looks. That’s enough to feed two billion people.

In the developing world, waste mainly occurs due to infrastructure problems after harvest, processing and bad roads. In comparison, developed nations waste more food farther down the supply chain, when retailers order, serve or display too much and when consumers ignore leftovers in the back of the fridge or toss perishables before they’ve expired.

What is ‘ugly’ fruit and veg?

‘Ugly’ refers to fruit and vegetables rejected by retailers because they don’t meet exact specifications. This could be because they’re over- or under-sized, cracked, blemished, or misshapen in other ways.

Across cultures, food waste goes against the moral grain and our obsession with 'perfectly' sized produce is, according to many, one of the primary causes of this staggering level of waste.

But, could preventing the waste of ‘ugly’ fruit and veg help ensure everyone has enough to eat?

It’s certainly a step in the right direction. Because anything that can be done to reduce the vast amount of global food waste has to be a good thing. Especially when around 800 million people are going hungry every day (according to the FAO).

“Ugly” or “wonky” veg was blamed for up to 40% of wasted fruit and vegetables in 2013, as produce was discarded for failing to meet retailer appearance standards. About 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted worldwide every year and, of this, fruit and vegetables have the highest wastage rates of any food type. But just how much of that is due to “ugly veg” being tossed by farms and supermarkets? The biggest culprit for food waste may be closer to home than we’d like to admit.

Rather than lambast supermarkets for imposing super-modelesque veg dimensions, let's look from the perspective of the consumer who walks into the store and picks the brightest packs and leaves the imperfect ones. This repeats itself until the imperfect ones get expired on the shelve and are disposed of. The supermarkets are thereby forced to respond to this by demanding only perfect supplies from the farmers because this is what the consumers demand and this causes great loss on the farmer's side.

Wasting food also has an impact on the environment. Wasted, uneaten and rejected food squanders the water, seeds, fuel, land, etc. needed to produce it. According to the UN, every year food that is produced, but not eaten, consumes the same volume of water as the annual flow of the Volga River (Europe’s most voluminous river). If it were a country, food waste would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S. On a planet of finite resources, with the expectation of at least two billion more residents by 2050

 They are not all perfect, but neither are we, It is mainly cosmetic: limb-rub on the skin or a bit of beetle damage. “It’s not all about blemish-free produce,” what we should be concerned about is the edibility and not the physical appearance. Cosmetic damage doesn’t affect eating quality. For a fact, Ugly veggies are as nutritious and delicious as the normal shaped veggies and fruits.

If we are to ensure global food security, accepting imperfect fruit and veg is an important step to take. It will also be good to re-educate consumers to think about their food consumption and waste, such as how they plan their weekly grocery shopping, what they throw out and the quest for perfectly shaped carrots, as this will have a positive impact on the amount of produce we discard.

Farmers could also arrange their products in categories and have different clients who’ll take the produce of varying quality. For example, Grade 1 produce goes to premium supermarket lines, Grade 2 goes into value packs, Grade 3 to food processors and anything less is sold for cattle feed. 

Local council authorities should also consider banning food waste from landfills. If one council does, then others might follow suit. "That would have a dramatic effect throughout the food chain. It would make us look at food as something to be utilized rather than created in abundance and that would lead to a philosophical shift in food waste.”

Let us all make room for imperfect fruits and vegetables. Food should fill our stomachs and not landfills.


Why people waste food [Retreieved from on 12th February 2020] 

Can ugly fruits and vegs feed the world [Retrieved from on 13th, February 2020]

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