A new report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that more than $165 billion worth of meats and produce are thrown away by Americans every year.
According to the Washington Post, the analysis found that waste exists from farm to fork, even as an ongoing drought threatens to boost food prices.
Relatively low U.S. prices make it easy to waste food, the report said. These wasteful tendencies have worsened over time, with the average American dumping ten times as much food as a consumer in South East Asia, up 50 percent from the 1970s.
The frustration for environmentalists is that natural resources - water, land and energy - are used to produce all that uneaten food, which is why the NRDC is weighing in on the topic, said Dana Gunders, the scientist who authored the study.
"We're essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That's money and precious resources down the drain," she said.
The analysis cites weak spots along every step of the food production chain.
On the farm, growers sometimes do not harvest foods because of poor market prices that make it difficult for them to recoup their labor and transportation costs, the report said.
The market also forces growers to choose the crops they do harvest, removing foods with blemishes or other cosmetic defects. Once perishable goods are shipped, they are too often rejected by distributors responsible for getting them to the stores and even by food banks, which sometimes receive more food than they can use at once, the NRDC report said.
The government estimates that supermarkets lose 15 billion dollars each year in unsold fruits and vegetables alone. The NRDC attributes some of these losses to overstocking products to impress customers. In restaurants and other food service outlets, which also suffer steep food waste-related losses, large portion sizes that far exceed the serving sizes recommended by the government play a significant role, the NRDC study said.