What food expiration dates mean to many people: EXTREME DANGER!! LETHAL if consumed after [insert date].
What food expiration dates mean to me: EXTREMELY DELICIOUS!! if consumed before [insert date]. If consumed after [insert date], DEVOUR IT AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN BEFORE IT BECOMES MORE EXPIRED! STILL DELICIOUS, THOUGH! NO REGRETS! 100% PURE ADRENALINE!
Full disclosure: I’ve been trying to write this post for about a month but haven’t been able to get anything going. It’s felt too preachy. So from here on, I’m’a trim everything nonessential (-ish) and try to just toss out a few thoughts and a couple of links. Let’s call it … 43% preachy. Which’ll be a more impressive number once you’ve seen the director’s cut.
Now, I haven’t always been the Chew-sader™, and when I have been a snack maverick it’s been because I really love to eat. Sure, my parents taught me to remove moldy crusts to save the innocent bread beneath and all that, but that’s just a convenient way to maximize my gluten consumption. And, yes, I’ve always teared up when Charlie Brown rescues that bedraggled Christmas sapling—I’m not a monster—but I’ve also always scoffed at all the dimpled, pathetic, can’t-throw-an-overhand-pitch rejects I’ve had to rummage through to get to that perfectly appled Gala. Yet over the last couple of years, I think I’ve metamorphosed, and for reasons that have nothing to do with the Fleming Standard Bleu-to-Cheese Ratio.
According to a recent article in National Geographic Magazine, “How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger,” about 1/3 of our annual global food production goes to waste. For perspective, that’s 2.9 trillion pounds of food, which is enough to feed more than two billion people, or roughly seventeen adult beagles.
That’s some Norma Desmond–level crazy right there.
(The article gets bonus points for using the word ensorcelled so early in its narrative, by the way.)
Of course, it makes sense that there is some waste in the food chain. A lot of waste even. Nature’s not always efficient. But that’s where we can step in. Because we can do things the rest of nature can’t/refuses to do. We created saltwater taffy that tastes like bacon, and we created Kim Kardashian’s fame … so there really are no logical rules governing our existence. And that being the case, why can’t we get all that wasted food to people who need/want it? Or at least eat our leftover cassoulet?
Developing nations often lack the infrastructure to be able to store or transport much of what is produced. But developed nations are better equipped to ship and store food, though tons of it, literally, still doesn’t make it far from where it’s grown or produced. Much of it’s thrown out by retailers or consumers because it has “expired” or will soon. Or even worse, because it’s unsightly. So basically, the infrastructure is there, but the desire/commitment isn’t. Our food mentality needs some zesting.
I heard this story on NPR several months ago, about a couple of filmmakers who decided to only eat food that had been thrown out. The TL;DR of it is, American dumpsters are a smörgåsbord of hummus, gourmet chocolate, and broken promises. I’m sure FDA quality standards are a big part of the cause of that waste, and those standards probably exist for many reasons—I definitely wouldn’t recommend gorging yourself on tubs of funky hummus—but some food is just dumped for the sake of convenience or cost-effectivenss. None of which will change until we’re willing to be a little inconvenienced now and then; to pay a little more now and then.
So, quoth the Once-ler: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
And that, my good brothers and sisters, is it. Food sermon over.