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Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States

Author

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  • Buzby, Jean C.
  • Hyman, Jeffrey

Abstract

There are few peer-reviewed or major published studies that estimate the total amount of food loss in developed countries and even fewer attempt to estimate the monetary value. We compiled estimates of the amount and value of food loss for more than 200 individual foods in the United States using the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data and then aggregated these values to estimate the total value of food loss and the value by food group. The results indicate that in 2008, the estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States as purchased at retail prices was $165.6billion. The top three food groups in terms of the value of food loss at these levels are: meat, poultry, and fish (41%); vegetables (17%); and dairy products (14%). Looking more closely at the estimates for the consumer level, this level of loss translates into almost 124kg (273lb) of food lost from human consumption, per capita, in 2008 at an estimated retail price of $390/capita/year. Food loss represents a significant share of household food expenditures: our estimates suggest that the annual value of food loss is almost 10% of the average amount spent on food per consumer in 2008 and over 1% of the average disposable income. This consumer level loss translates into over .3kg (0.7lb) of food per capita per day valued at $1.07/day. Our estimates of the total value of food loss in the United States and loss estimates by food group are useful in that they can generate awareness of the issue among the food industry members, governments, and consumers. Potential large-scale approaches and economic incentives to mitigate food loss in developed countries are also discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Buzby, Jean C. & Hyman, Jeffrey, 2012. "Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 561-570.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:37:y:2012:i:5:p:561-570 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2012.06.002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Buzby, Jean C. & Wells, Hodan Farah & Axtman, Bruce & Mickey, Jana, 2009. "Supermarket Loss Estimates for Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, Poultry, and Seafood and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data," Economic Information Bulletin 58313, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Engstrom, Rebecka & Carlsson-Kanyama, Annika, 2004. "Food losses in food service institutions Examples from Sweden," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 203-213, June.
    3. Reed, Jane & Frazao, Elizabeth & Itskowitz, Rachel, 2004. "How Much Do Americans Pay for Fruits and Vegetables?," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33691, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Einav, Liran & Leibtag, Ephraim S. & Nevo, Aviv, 2008. "On the Accuracy of Nielsen Homescan Data," Economic Research Report 56490, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Stewart, Hayden & Hyman, Jeffrey & Buzby, Jean C. & Frazao, Elizabeth & Carlson, Andrea, 2011. "How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?," Economic Information Bulletin 101280, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. repec:oup:revage:v:31:y:2009:i:3:p:470-492. is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Chen Zhen & Justin L. Taylor & Mary K. Muth & Ephraim Leibtag, 2009. "Understanding Differences in Self-Reported Expenditures between Household Scanner Data and Diary Survey Data: A Comparison of Homescan and Consumer Expenditure Survey," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, pages 470-492.
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