31 Percent Of All Food In America Is Wasted – And Why That Is About To End

Burger And Fries - Photo by Ewan MunroAccording to a stunning new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a third of all food produced in the United States gets wasted.  We are probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet, and we are also one of the most gluttonous.  More than 35 percent of all Americans are considered to be officially “obese” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Unfortunately, this era of gluttony and taking food for granted will soon be coming to an end.  Thanks to crippling drought in key growing areas and other extremely bizarre weather patterns, a massive food crisis is beginning to emerge all over the planet.  If you don’t think that this is going to affect you, then you simply are not paying attention.  Approximately half of all produce grown in the United States comes from the state of California, and right now California is suffering through the worst stretch of drought on record.  Food prices are going to start soaring, and that is going to affect the household budget of every family in America.

Needless to say, a time is coming when Americans will not waste food so recklessly.  But for the moment, we still have a tremendous amount of disrespect for the value of food.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we waste a staggering 133 billion pounds of food each year

Nearly a third of the 430 billion pounds of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted, a potential catastrophe for landfills and a wake-up call to officials scrambling to feed the hungry, according to a stunning new report from the Department of Agriculture.

The just-issued report revealed that in 2010, 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food produced for Americans to eat was wasted, either molded or improperly cooked, suffered “natural shrinkage” due to moisture loss, or because people became disinterested in what they purchased.

Not that we need to stuff any more food into our mouths.  As I mentioned above, we have an epidemic of obesity in this nation.  In fact, the CDC says that 35 percent of the entire population is “obese”…

Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of US adults (35.7 percent) are obese, which is perhaps the best argument that Americans can offset a large part of the food waste problem by simply eating less. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the US was $147 billion in 2008; the costs of providing medical assistance for individuals who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, thereby placing an enormous strain on healthcare costs.

Since we are such gluttons and we are so incredibly wasteful, we should have plenty of food to share with those in need, right?

Unfortunately, we are also extremely greedy and greatly lacking in compassion.

As I have written about previously, feeding the homeless has been banned in cities all over the nation, and other cities have passed regulations that greatly discourage the feeding of the homeless

Feeding the homeless is about to get harder as a new policy is set to begin this Saturday, Feb. 15, in Columbia, SC. Charities and non-profits will be required to pay a fee and obtain a permit 15 days in advance in order to feed the homeless in parks.

One impacted charity that was interviewed by the Free Times, Food Not Bombs, has been serving food to the homeless in Finlay Park every Sunday for 12 years. The group’s organizer, Judith Turnipseed, noted that the group has an impeccable track record and always tidies up after the meal. But with the new crackdown, Food Not Bombs will have to pay at least $120 per week for the right to feed the homeless.

Since the Columbia City Council approved its exile plan in August, the city has been trying to herd its homeless people to a shelter on the outskirts of town and keep them away from downtown. If charities continue to provide food in downtown parks, the thinking goes, it will allow homeless people to continue to live downtown, rather than being forced to leave.

What is wrong with us?

While we stuff our faces with more french fries and chicken wings, we have an appalling lack of compassion for those that are not able to take care of themselves.

Perhaps we deserve what is coming.

The horrible drought that never seems to end is rapidly turning much of the western half of the country into a barren wasteland.

You can see some incredible before and after photos of the drought in California right here.

If a miracle does not happen, the upcoming growing season is going to be absolutely disastrous.  As I have written about previously, California farmers have already decided to allow half a million acres of farmland to sit idle this year because of the extremely dry conditions.

And it certainly does not help that the government has decided to cut off water supplies to many of the farmers.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Holly Deyo

Government has lost its mind. It is no more evident than their decision last week to cut off water to America’s food basket. Squeezed by the worst-ever drought in the state’s history, California is dying of thirst. Crushing news was delivered to farmer’s that no water would be coming from the Federal government. This dreaded decision was compounded by the Sierra Mountains getting just 25% of normal snowpack. There is no water to replenish already dangerously low reservoirs, so no water for farmers.

Needless to say, there are a lot of farmers that are going to be absolutely crippled by this.  The following is from Fox News

A federal agency’s recent announcement that the California’s Central Valley will get zero percent water allocation this year was devastating for farmers already dealing with the worst drought seen in decades.

One of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, the enormous valley is reeling after the driest year in more than a century. But last week, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water to a third of the irrigated farmland in California through a 500-mile network of canals and tunnel, said it won’t be able to deliver any of the water sought by farmers.

“It goes beyond devastation, you’re going to see farms that have been in business 30 and 40 years, they do not have any water, they are out of business,” said Dennis Falaschi, general manager of the Panoche Water District.

If California produces much less food than it normally does, that means that food prices are going to start skyrocketing.  Here is more from Holly Deyo

As one Millennium-Ark reader pointed out in an email last week, after the jump in beef prices, people will look to chicken, pork, fish and turkey. Chicken is already up though not as much as beef.  This will, in turn, drive up their costs and affect availability of these other meats. Keep in mind that California also produces all of these proteins plus lamb. Then consider this: Ag Specialists Warn of Higher Wheat Prices Due to Drought. It’s not just beef, weather is clobbering food from all angles.

And please keep in mind that the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has already been shrinking for seven years in a row, and that it is now the smallest that it has been since 1951.

But back in 1951, the size of the U.S. population was less than half of what it is today.

For much more on the emerging food crisis, please see this video.

Let us certainly hope and pray that the drought in California ends soon and that things get back to normal.

But I wouldn’t count on that.

According to National Geographic, the scientific experts that have studied these things tell us that it has been quite common throughout history for that region of North America to suffer through extended droughts that last for a decade or more.

One drought even lasted for about 200 years.

So the current drought in California might end next year.

Or it might last for the rest of our lifetimes.

We simply do not know.

But what does seem clear is that the days of taking our food for granted will soon be coming to an end.

In-N-Out_triple_cheeseburger_fries -  Photo by Christian Razukas

The Price Of Corn Hits A Record High As A Global Food Crisis Looms

Are you ready for the next major global food crisis?  The price of corn hit an all-time record high on Thursday.  So did the price of soybeans.  The price of corn is up about 50 percent since the middle of last month, and the price of wheat has risen by about 50 percent over the past five weeks.  On Thursday, corn for September delivery reached $8.166 per bushel, and many analysts believe that it could hit $10 a bushel before this crisis is over.  The worst drought in the United States in more than 50 years is projected to continue well into August, and more than 1,300 counties in the United States have been declared to be official natural disaster areas.  So how is this crisis going to affect the average person on the street?  Well, most Americans and most Europeans are going to notice their grocery bills go up significantly over the coming months.  That will not be pleasant.  But in other areas of the world this crisis could mean the difference between life and death for some people.  You see, half of all global corn exports come from the United States.  So what happens if the U.S. does not have any corn to export?  About a billion people around the world live on the edge of starvation, and today the Financial Times ran a front page story with the following headline: “World braced for new food crisis“.  Millions upon millions of families in poor countries are barely able to feed themselves right now.  So what happens if the price of the food that they buy goes up dramatically?

You may not think that you eat much corn, but the truth is that it is in most of the things that we buy at the grocery store.  In fact, corn is found in about 74 percent of the products we buy in the supermarket and it is used in more than 3,500 ways.

Americans consume approximately one-third of all the corn grown in the world each year, and we export massive amounts of corn to the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, thanks to the drought of 2012 farmers are watching their corn die right in front of their eyes all over the United States.

The following is from a Washington Post article that was posted on Thursday….

Nearly 40 percent of the corn crop was in poor-to-very-poor condition as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. That compared with just 11 percent a year ago.

“The crop, if you look going south from Illinois and Indiana, is damaged and a lot of it is damaged hopelessly and beyond repair now,” said Sterling Smith, a Citibank Institutional Client Group vice president who specializes in commodities.

About 30 percent of the soybean crop was in poor-to-very-poor condition, which compared with 10 percent a year ago.

Conditions for both crops are expected to worsen in Monday’s agriculture agency report.

More than half of the country is experiencing drought conditions right now, and this is devastating both ranchers and farmers.  Right now, ranchers all over the western United States are slaughtering their herds early as feed prices rise.  It is being projected that the price of meat will rise substantially later this year.

The following is from a recent MSNBC article….

For example, you may want to make room in your freezer for meat because prices for beef and pork are expected to drop in the next few months as farmers slaughter herds to deal with the high cost of grains that are used as livestock feed, said Shawn Hackett of the agricultural commodities firm Hackett Financial Advisors in Boynton Beach, Fla. But, he added, everything from milk to salad dressing is going to cost more in the near term, and eventually the meat deals will evaporate as demand outstrips supply.

So there may be some deals on meat in the short-term as all of these animals are slaughtered, but in the long-term we can expect prices to go up quite a bit.

But it isn’t as if food is not already expensive enough.  The price of food rose much faster than the overall rate of inflation last year.

As I wrote about yesterday, American families found their grocery budgets stretched very thin during 2011.  Just check out these food inflation rates from last year….

  • Beef: +10.2%
  • Pork: +8.5%
  • Fish: +7.1%
  • Eggs: +9.2%
  • Dairy: +6.8%
  • Oils and Fats: +9.3%

If prices rose that fast last year, what will those statistics look like at the end of this year if this drought continues?

Sadly, America is not alone.  According to Bloomberg, the U.S. is not the only place that is having problems with crops right now….

Dry weather in the U.S., as well as the Black Sea region; a poor start to the Indian monsoon and the possibility of emerging El Nino conditions suggest agricultural products may rally, Barclays said in a report e-mailed yesterday.

And all of this is very bad news for a world that is really struggling to feed itself.

In many countries around the globe, the poor spend up to 75 percent of their incomes on food.  Just a 10 percent increase in the price of basic food staples can be absolutely devastating for impoverished families that are living right on the edge.

You may not have ever known what it is like to wonder where your next meal is going to come from, but in many areas around the world that is a daily reality for many families.

Just check out what is happening in Yemen….

Crying and staring at his distended belly, 6-year-old Warood cannot walk on his spindly legs.

“We become so familiar with sickness,” said his mother, who according to social norms here does not give her name to outsiders.

She says she has watched two of her children die. “I have to decide: Do I buy rice or medicine?”

The United Nations estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life-threatening levels of malnutrition. In the Middle East’s poorest country hunger has doubled since 2009. More than 10 million people — 44% of the population — do not have enough food to eat, according to the United Nation’s World Food Program.

In the United States, we aren’t going to see starvation even if nearly the entire corn crop fails.  Our grocery bills might be more painful, but there is still going to be plenty of food for everyone.

In other areas of the world, a bad year for global crops can mean the difference between life and death.

Sadly, it is being projected that the current drought in the United States will last well into August at least.

But even when this current drought ends, our problems will not be over.  The truth is that we are facing a very severe long-term water crisis in the western United States.

Just check out the following facts from foodandwaterwatch.org….

-California has a 20-year supply of freshwater left

-New Mexico has only a ten-year supply of freshwater left

-The U.S. interior west is probably the driest it has been in 500 years, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey

-Lake Mead, the vast reservoir of the Colorado River, has a 50 percent chance of running dry by 2021

The 1,450 mile long Colorado River is probably the most important body of water in the southwestern United States.

Unfortunately, the Colorado River is rapidly dying.

The following is from a recent article by Jonathan Waterman about how the once might Colorado River is running dry…

Fifty miles from the sea, 1.5 miles south of the Mexican border, I saw a river evaporate into a scum of phosphates and discarded water bottles. This dirty water sent me home with feet so badly infected that I couldn’t walk for a week. And a delta once renowned for its wildlife and wetlands is now all but part of the surrounding and parched Sonoran Desert. According to Mexican scientists whom I met with, the river has not flowed to the sea since 1998. If the Endangered Species Act had any teeth in Mexico, we might have a chance to save the giant sea bass (totoaba), clams, the Sea of Cortez shrimp fishery that depends upon freshwater returns, and dozens of bird species.

So let this stand as an open invitation to the former Secretary of the Interior and all water buffalos who insist upon telling us that there is no scarcity of water here or in the Mexican Delta. Leave the sprinklered green lawns outside the Aspen conferences, come with me, and I’ll show you a Colorado River running dry from its headwaters to the sea. It is polluted and compromised by industry and agriculture. It is overallocated, drought stricken, and soon to suffer greatly from population growth. If other leaders in our administration continue the whitewash, the scarcity of knowledge and lack of conservation measures will cripple a western civilization built upon water. “You can either do it in crisis mode,” Pat Mulroy said at this conference, “or you can start educating now.”

People need to wake up because we have some very serious water issues in this country.

In the heartland of America, farmers pump water from a massive underground lake known as the Ogallala Aquifer to irrigate their fields.

The problem is that the Ogallala Aquifer is rapidly being pumped dry.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie” has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940.

Once upon a time, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of about 240 feet.

Today, the average depth of the Ogallala Aquifer is just 80 feet, and in some parts of Texas the water is totally gone.

Right now, the Ogallala Aquifer is being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.

Once that water is gone it will not be replaced.

So what will the “breadbasket of America” do then?

Most Americans do not realize this, but we are facing some major, major water problems.

Let us pray that this current drought ends and let us pray that everyone around the world will have enough to eat.

But even if we get through this year okay by some miracle, that doesn’t mean that our problems are over.

 

The Economic Collapse