Ever wonder why all the fruit and vegetables you see at the supermarket look the same?
You might think it's part of some sinister plot—that factory farming and monocultures have created perfectly cloned genetically modified produce. But the ugly truth is even worse: Fruits and veggies that fail to meet consumers' cosmetic expectations are simply thrown away.
Yep, we're the problem.
In this age of high energy costs and environmental uncertainty, we still waste as much as 20 to 40 percent of our fresh produce, according to estimates from the United Nations Environment Program. These fruits and vegetables aren't lacking for nutrition, they're just ugly.
The European Union recently paid some lip service to the problem, naming 2014 the "Year Against Food Waste." And as NPR reported last week, the resolution has inspired some creative solutions at European grocery stores.
The highest-profile effort thus far has come from Intermarché, a French grocer that launched a tongue-in-cheek viral campaign to restore the dignity of "inglorious fruits and vegetables."
It started with a pilot program at a supermarket outside Paris: The store bought up ugly produce from local farmers and sold it to consumers at a 30% discount. A combination of in-store education and samples of pre-made soups and juices helped convince shoppers that ugly fruits and veggies can taste just as good as their supermodel counterparts.
The store quickly sold out, and even reported at 24% increase in overall store traffic. In fact, the promotion was so popular that the company brought it back in October at all 1,800 Intermarché locations. Rival supermarket chains have since moved to cash in on the idea.
The movement has spread far beyond France. In Portugal, a cooperative called Fruta Fei (Ugly Fruit) has developed a cult-like following. Safeway has also been experimenting with "misfit produce" in Canada.
Others have attacked the problem from a different angle. A "zero-waste" supermarket in Germany aims to prevent food packaging waste, while a new app called LeftoverSwap helps individuals give their unwanted leftover food to hungry neighbors. And of course there's this guy.
We say bring on the ugly produce. After all, it's what's on the inside that counts.