Emily Matchar in Smithsonian:
Would you eat ketchup made from tossed-out tomatoes? Drink beer made with stale scraps of bread?
If so, join the club. A growing number of companies are making food and drink products out of ingredients traditionally considered waste. And, according to new research, consumers increasingly accept—and even prefer—such products. “Consumers are actually willing to pay more for food made from surplus products,” says Jonathan Deutsch, a professor of culinary arts at Drexel University, who led the study. Deutsch and his colleagues presented study participants with different food products labeled either “conventional,” “organic,” or “value-added surplus”—their term for foods normally destined for the dumpster. Participants were not, as food manufacturers have long assumed, disgusted by the idea of using “trash” in their food, but felt positively about the opportunity to help the environment. Deutsch hopes this study, recently published in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, will help manufacturers feel more confident about incorporating food waste into products. “Rather than composting or donating scraps for pig feed or secretly carting it off to a landfill, [manufacturers are] going to own the fact that they’re keeping this nutrition in the food system,” says Deutsch.
The problem of food waste has been getting more attention in recent years. Globally, up to a third of all food is spoiled or lost before it can be eaten. America wastes about 62 million tons of food annually, and this waste amounts to some $218 million. Yet one in seven Americans is food insecure, which means they lack consistent access to healthy food. Waste can happen anywhere along the food chain—farms fail to harvest crops due to lack of labor, food spoils during transport, manufacturers toss trimmings too small to use, supermarkets reject produce for imperfect looks, restaurants throw out food after its use-by date, consumers let meals rot in the back of the fridge.