Economic and Environmental Costs of Meat Waste in the US

Economic and Environmental Costs of Meat Waste in the US

Nicholas Hardersen (University of Oklahoma, USA) and Jadwiga R. Ziolkowska (University of Oklahoma, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4757-0.ch004
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Food waste is a major issue around the globe impacting food security, resource use, economic operations, and the environment. Meat waste, constituting approximately half of total annual meat production in the United States, is particularly relevant to address due to significant resource inputs used in livestock breeding and the meat production process. In this chapter, the authors monetize annual costs of natural resources including water, land, and energy, as well as emissions of methane and nitrous oxide embedded in wasted meat in the United States. Results indicate the total annual cost of $32-32.5 billion. The outcomes substantiate the need to reduce current levels of wasted meat in order to minimize economic, social, and environmental impacts on natural resources and make food and meat production more sustainable.
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One-quarter to one-half of total agricultural production is wasted at different points along the global food supply chain each year, amounting to approximately 1.3 billion tons (Gustavsson et al., 2011; Kummu et al., 2012; Lipinski et al., 2013; Lundqvist et al., 2008). Regardless of the varying estimates in the literature, the amount of wasted food is substantial and directly translates into quantities of natural resources used for food production that are also wasted when food is discarded. The food waste problem and its impacts are discussed below followed by a closer exploration of animal husbandry and meat waste.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Food Security: The state (of an individual or societies) of having a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food.

Sustainability: The ability to maintain environmental, social, and economic systems and capital indefinitely for the present generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Animal Husbandry: The raising of any animal species to consume and/or utilize for various purposes.

Monetary Valuation: Assigning economic value and/or cost to a specific resource or product.

Agriculture: Science or practice of farming (soil cultivation for growing crops and grazing animals) to provide food, wool, and other products.

Natural Resources: Naturally occurring materials or substances that can be used for various purposes to gain specific benefits.

Livestock: Any living animal or group of animals used in animal husbandry to consume and/or use for various purposes.

Food Waste: The loss or wastage of edible food at any point in a food supply chain.

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