The Aesthetics of Produce

la-oe-0908-figuereido-ugly-fruit-005I found this article in the LA Times fascinating, and a continuation of what I have been seeing discussed in other media outlets.  John Oliver recently covered this topic on his show “Last Week Tonight” in relation to the appalling amount of food waste we have in this country.    What may be considered “ugly” produce isn’t selling at farmer’s markets and grocery stores simply because people are not disassociating looks from taste.


From the LA TIMES:

Approximately 26% of all fruits and vegetables are thrown away before they even reach grocery stores in the United States, leading to billions of pounds of waste each year. Perfectly edible, wonderfully nutritious apples, peaches, carrots and onions rot in our landfills — in a country where 1 in 6 people are considered food insecure and where more than 80% of us are not eating enough produce. Fully 25% of fresh water goes to food we don’t eat.

Why does this happen? Aesthetic pickiness deserves much of the blame. Large grocery stores systematically reject fruits and vegetables at the farm and packinghouse because of imperfections in size, shape and color. They know that shoppers tend to “eat with their eyes.”

To draw attention to this problem, the French supermarket chain Intermarche teamed up with an advertising agency to launch the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign. Inglorious put a new spin on “ugly” produce by distributing fun, lovable and even bizarrely sexy photos of fruits and vegetables.

Recently, I took a page from the French, starting an anti-waste/ugly produce social media campaign for an American audience. Fruit and vegetables grow in amazing shapes: peaches that look like birds, plums that look like hearts and, everyone’s favorite, carrots that look like they’re auditioning for an X-rated movie.

The best thing about ugly produce? The cost. Because farmers have such a hard time getting grocers to purchase their not quite “perfect” produce, they sell “ugly” produce for 30% to 50% off. So buy uglies wherever you can. If we can stop wasting this delicious food, the result will be beautiful.