Dairy products and vegetables account for 38 percent of food loss in U.S. grocery stores, restaurants, and homes

A chart showing U.S. food loss at retail and consumer levels by food category.

Food loss is becoming an increasingly important issue as the world’s population grows and as pressures on agricultural land and other resources increase. ERS calculates that at the retail and consumer levels, an estimated 133 billion pounds, or 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of food available for human consumption in the United States in 2010, was not eaten due to cooking and moisture shrinkage; loss from mold, pests, or inadequate climate control; plate waste; and other causes. On a weight basis, the estimated losses were split fairly evenly across six of the nine major food groups, with the added fats and oils group and the eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts group having smaller loss shares. The size of the losses reflects both the relative amounts of food sold and prepared, as well as loss-related characteristics, such as shrinkage during cooking, perishability, consumers’ tastes and preferences, and misjudgments about the amount of food to buy or prepare. This chart appears in "ERS's Food Loss Data Help Inform the Food Waste Discussion" in the June 2013 Amber Waves.

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