‘Ugly’ produce is beautiful, too.

As a society, we’ve long been fascinated with beauty; it has taken over public perception and has continued to be perpetuated by modern media. You see it in the tabloids when checking out of the grocery store and as you stroll through the aisles, you notice a peculiar transference of this same, skewed belief in our food as well. Why is a Granny Smith so green and a Red Delicious so red? Why are bananas a lavish yellow and grapes a perfect purple? Frankly, because we want them that way. We’ve become attuned to this kind of borderline perfection in our food system in the last 50 years and only now are people beginning to see beyond the outer beauty and truly focus on the inner. Food, like people, are not perfect, and nor should they be! Flaws are what make us beautiful, and oddly enough, the same can be said for fruit and vegetables…especially if those fruits and vegetables can taste so much better!

What has happened in the United States, and globally to an extent, is a need for the perfect piece of produce. And from our desire for beauty and perfection, has stemmed Big Agriculture’s desire to achieve it. Enter GMO’s: Corn that doesn’t need to be sprayed with pesticides because it produces its own; a potato that doesn’t brown upon being cut; the Flavr Savr tomato, the first approved GMO veggie, that slowed the tomato’s ripening process. In turn, our current food system can easily be placed into three categories: year-round availability, durable food, and cheap to consumer. This triangle of current food system has accounted for a steep increase in our country’s food waste. According to a Oct 15th, 2014 Business Insider article, America currently throws away one-third, or 133 BILLION pounds, of food that is produced each year. That number is devastatingly high. And while grocery stores account for 10% of that waste, largely it is us, the consumer, to blame (even though we’ve been trained to act this way!). The article continues, stating: “Customers have been trained to expect perfect, identically shaped produce. Retailers stock their produce according to that expectation — even if the shape, size, and color have nothing to do with quality”. This tendency to sacrifice taste for convenience or “perfect” produce has become something that has been engrained in us over decades. The article, being as nice as possible, places most of the blame on us: “These issues have parallels in consumers’ homes. In general, consumers buy too much food, throw it away too quickly, and pay little attention to waste. Food waste on the consumer level is double that of the retail level (90 billion pounds of food versus 42 billion pounds). We, at Mike’s Organic, love to push this notion of quality: that orange or tomato may not “look” perfect, but we can guarantee it will taste near it!

So what is being done to change how we perceive food and how to cut back on the enormous amount of waste we produce? Firstly, people are sourcing their foods from local farmers, not only to develop a relationship with that farmer or producer, but as a way to encourage and inspire ourselves to cook more and waste less. Secondly, grocery stores are being forced to change. They are reducing stock piling of fresh produce, which has attracted more people to buy them! One French grocery store, Intermache, has even started to sell what they call, “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” Take a look!

Jamie Oliver, chef and Food Revolutionist, has done the same in UK, pushing for Asda, a British based grocery store, to provide “Wonky Fruit and Veg” in their stores starting at the end of February. This notion of eating imperfect fruits and vegetables is becoming more and more common and is something Mike’s Organic fully endorses! We want to provide beautiful produce each and every week, but knowing that your food was grown responsibly and tastes amazing regardless of a bump, bruise, or brown spot is the first step to cutting back on food waste in this country!