Food & Drink

So Much Perfectly Edible Produce Is Wasted Every Year, Simply Because It's Ugly

05/19/2015 11:40am ET | Updated December 6, 2017

An estimated six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables are wasted every year in the U.S., with some of those fruits and vegetables wasted because they are ugly, according to report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. This means a portion of the produce grown for human consumption is rejected by grocery stores and goes uneaten because of its appearance.

Founders of a crowd-funded company called Imperfect are attempting to minimize this waste by working with farmers to source "cosmetically challenged" seasonal produce and deliver it to subscribers' homes on a weekly basis.

The California-based startup reached its fundraising goal earlier this month and plans to begin service in Oakland and Berkeley this summer.

Courtesy of Imperfect.

Farmers should profit, making money off crops that would have otherwise been trashed in landfills. Customers benefit because the fruit and veggies cost 30 to 50 percent less than they would at the grocery store, and tastes exactly the same as its physically attractive counterparts, the company pledges.

"You're going to feel good, knowing that by eating Imperfect, you're helping to reduce food waste and protect the environment from the green house gasses that rotting food emits," Imperfect promised in its IndieGoGo fundraising video.

Courtesy of Imperfect.

Other programs aim to cut down on food waste, too. A similar initiative led by EndFoodWaste.org, called Ugly Fruit And Vegetables, promotes hideous-looking produce on a global scale. On its website, Ugly Fruit And Vegetables lists sellers around the world who participate in providing low-cost, unattractive fruit and vegetables to consumers, helping to support environmental causes as well as farmers and shoppers.

Courtesy of Imperfect.

Since childhood, we've been taught to never judge a book by its cover and to respect all ugly ducklings. When these lessons are applied to food, they don't lose their logic. Any ugly piece of produce can be transformed into a gorgeous meal: You never see the fruit in its original form when it's thrown into a smoothie, nor the vegetable after it's scrambled into an omelette.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story suggested six billion pounds of produce is wasted because it is ugly. But other factors contribute to this total loss, including economic forces, natural damage and quality standards. Language has been updated.

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