Food Network's "The Big Waste"

If you have not seen this I highly recommend looking it up and watching it. The premiss of the show is that 4 Food Network chefs are given the challenge to cook a meal for 100 people only using what stores, farmers, and other would consider waste. I put it on thinking it would be like any other food network show (bit cheesy) but found it very alarming what we as American consider “waste”.

One farmer (crazy enough around the corner from my office) that he discards 40-50% of his crop all because tomatoes may have cracked skin, or a hurricane blew down some corn stalk so his “pick your own” customers will not pick it, or the veggies may have small blemishes. All of this produce ends up at the end of the season in a massive composte pile We have trained consumers to demand perfection. The crazy part about that is they they demand aesthetic perfection. If you know anything about food you know that just because a tomato is bright red does not mean it is good, actually it normally means they are crap.

A fresh chicken house claims consumers will not bye a chicken that has broken wing after butchering because they think there may be something else wrong with it. The chicken came in alive and was butchered in that facility, but because of a broken wing it died for nothing. Really??? If you are going to toss it, give it to me. I roast one ever Sunday a I dont give a crap if the wing is broken.

With all the hungry people we have in this country as well as the world this is ridiculous. I know this focussed on the NYC area, and the US but I would imagine this is a world wide problem. Check it out!!


Thank for posting this Justin. There is such a glut of “new idea” programming on the Food Network that it’s hard to devote the time to watching them … especially since many are pretty shallow (Cupcake Wars !!! c’mon… … )

In the town I grew up in there was a commercial bakery named “SAPS Donuts”. It was a huge facility and supplied the 4-state area of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky; you could smell those donuts all over town, it was like living in the world’s largest bakery shop. There was a “company store” adjoining the plant where you could buy their fresh items every morning. But you could also buy deeply discounted items they called “cripples”. Exactly the same item, made the night before, just as tasty, but that had cosmetic blemishes; flat on one side, off-center holes in donuts, no enough powder-sugar on tap, etc. that they couldn’t distribute to their retail customers. They also sold “2-day old” goods (which were sometimes better than the fresh stuff.) I’d pickup a big box (5"x12"x18") of assorted cripples for guys in the office for about $2.

SAPS didn’t waste much. If you drove by the loading docks really early in the mornings you would see a front-end loader dumping, literally tons, of baked goods (returned unsold by their route drivers) into the back of pickup trucks; the local hog farmers fed them to their stock. Essentially worthless at this point, it was given away, just so it wouldn’t go to waste.

RE: Chicken. I buy chicken at New Frontiers, a local “health food” grocery. The wing-tips on all of their chickens is clipped of. It put me off for a while… same reasoning… what was wrong with this. I asked the butcher “why” and his brief response was, “You don’t eat it do you? So why should you pay for it?” Makes sense to me… now.

No problem Lew. I didn’t know if anyone would even respond to this post, but I had to write it up somewhere. So like most of my rants I came to Core. I agree that most if not all Food Network shows are pretty shallow (although I love chopped) but this was very well done.

It’s really cool to hear your story. At Mars we actually do quite a bit of pig food as well. This is all really great but I think what bothered me the most about this show is that great healthy food is going to waste. If we are going to be donating food why not fresh veggies and meats? Also this made me realize that we have forgotten what real fresh food looks like…not perfect!! I guess because I have a love for food and growing up with both sets of grandparents as farmers, i hate to see perfectly good food wasted.


FWIW, check this out.

Makes me want to buy half a cow (which you can do here now-—cowbells-mark-cutrara/

**Dunno why the whole like doesn’t work. copy and paste.


My folks bought sides of beef and pork for years from a local meat processor who maintained a cold locker. Of course they had the sides broken down into ground, steaks, tenderloins, hocks, etc. But we always had (or at least I remember having) great meat dishes. And I’m sure they got a better price than buying over the counter.

I’ve been patronizing a local meat shop for a couple of years now. The Arroyo Grande Meat Compnay has been in the same building (under several owners) for over one hundred years now. There is an ancient photograph of the store with racks of meat hanging out in front, and the interior still has long beams across the ceiling with hooks for hanging product. I imagine the floor was covered with saw dust back in those days. Henry operates the same smokehouse that has always been there and I’m sure it’s “cure” lends alot of flavor to his hams, sausage, and bacon. I pay more for his stuff, but it’s more than worth it; fresher meat, aged if I ask him to, custom cut bacons, chops, chicken. Henry also butchers for local ranchers and processes game animals. It isn’t uncommon to climb the stairs to the rear entry (the VIP entrance), turn the corner and find a hog, or deer hanging from the mono-rail waiting for his attention. There’s something literally visceral about the whole experience. I hunted when I was younger, same experience.

I don’t know how “designer” food can be changed in the US. Food Network is certainly contributing to the “problem” in a lot of ways… again Cupcake Wars, promoting “eye candy”. Any of the chef programming emphasizing “the plate” versus the food itself… I’m wandering here. But basically… there should be more emphasis on how the average person buys and prepares food, on a daily level. Alton Brown to some extent teaches this (or did earlier in his FN career), Jamie Oliver (in particular) promotes what you bring up.

I grew up in rural Indiana, and I’m just old enough (60) to have been exposed to the way the food chain used to work; local butchers, fruit and vegetable stands (in the summer (my mom canned everything)), a big garden in the back yard, neighbors with chickens, corner bakeries, a local creamery that delivered to our house, etc.

Regretfully, fewer, and fewer people have the time, budget, or know how to exist this way anymore. By the time the product gets to the market, even “fresh” foods are three days old… … :frowning:

An observation?

Does anyone else find that the “organic” vegetables found in local super markets are, on the whole, less “fresh” than their non-organic counterparts?

I do. I can only attribute a lack of freshness to longer supply chains. Locally grown (farmer’s market) produce does not seem to suffer from the field-to-consumer time lag. And while I generally prefer organically grown products, I defer to freshness.