Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Tip of the Iceberg: Why does ugly fruit get wasted?
I want to use the next few posts to explain why “ugly” fruit gets “wasted”. In order to explain
that properly, I’ll need to define what ugly means, and what waste means, from my
I define “ugly” as the all-encompassing term for fruit that is sorted out from the top-grade fruit
that is sold fresh at supermarkets. Ugly fruit was originally grown to be eaten fresh and sold at
its maximum value in the grocery store. For a multitude of reasons however, ugly fruit gets
sorted out, and is not used for its originally intended purpose. The reasons range from visual
imperfections – size, color and shape — to market conditions, over-ripening and insect damage.
I’ll dive deeper into these reasons in the next post.
I define waste as any fruit that is not used for its maximum value purpose, for people to eat.
The clearest waste of ugly fruit is when it is dumped out in open fields to rot. But what if a
piece of fruit is tossed out and used for compost, is it wasted? Yes. What if a piece of fruit is
used for cattle feed, is it wasted? Yes. Not everyone agrees with my definition, and that’s ok.
Here’s the frame of reference I use for my definition of waste.
Would you go to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, order a T-Bone steak, and feed it to your dog rather
than eat it yourself? You probably would not because it would be a waste of $200. Would you
use a $100 bill to make compost with? No, it would be more efficient to use lawn clippings to
make your compost.
In both examples, the steak and $100 bill are not completely wasted… But they certainly are
not being used to their maximum value. In other words, fruit that is fed to livestock or used to
make compost is not completely wasted, but the fruit’s value is mostly wasted. Especially when
you consider the fact that there’s no shortage of green waste to make compost with, and cattle don’t need to eat fresh fruit when there’s other options available.
Only using < 1% of fruit’s value and wasting the remaining +99% is without a doubt wasteful in
I want to live in a world where we don’t waste our valuable resources. I certainly believe we
can build a maximum efficiency system that captures 100% of the value of the food that we
In the next post, I will circle back around to why ugly fruit gets sorted out in the first place.
In the meantime, I would like to hear your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with my
rationale and definition of ugly and waste?