Feature

Ugly Delicious

Heading

Millions of pounds of food continue to go to waste, often due to their physical appearance. But why should looks be so important for food that’s valued for its nutrition?

Photography by
Videography by
Mike Dee
Read Time
Location Tag
No items found.
Originally Published In

Each year, some 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste—enough to feed the estimated 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Part of this wastage is about three million tonnes of produce, unharvested or unsold mainly due to factors of the more aesthetic sort and not necessarily of freshness or quality. These outcasts are commonly referred to as “ugly produce” or “imperfect produce”—deformed or crookedly shaped. This is different from being rotten, spoiled, or contaminated as to make a person ill.

There are natural and environmental causes for produce to grow into “irregular” shapes. Sometimes, too much fertilizer, or too little, can cause slight deformities. In the case of carrots, the tips can easily be damaged while growing against rocks in the soil, thus causing a split and sprouting multiple roots from one point as a result. Irregular pockets of manured soil could also prod young carrots to grow in different directions, eventually forming unsymmetrical shapes. Skin blemishes are also a common issue for produce rejection, however slightly more forgivable than irregular shapes and formations.

This is different from being rotten, spoiled, or contaminated as to make a person ill.

Fruits are usually more vulnerable to surface damage and bruising, thanks to hail storms, rain, sun exposure, or humidity. The exterior damage would render these fruits unsellable in most supermarkets, regardless if texture and flavor are unaffected. While on display, shoppers use their tactile and olfactory senses when selecting and deciding on which fruit or vegetable to buy; poking, smelling, and possibly mishandling the produce before buying, if at all.

Perhaps the disadvantage of imperfect fruit would be the expectations on how it’s to be consumed: raw, fresh, uncooked (unless it’s for baking or dessert). As opposed to the imperfect vegetable that would be peeled, chopped, grated, tossed, or cooked until it no longer resembles its original, unusual state.

There are myriad factors as to why produce is not as flawless and perfect as we expect. But, what is “flawless” and “perfect” in nature, if not a relative perception; a construct used to influence consumer behavior and, ultimately, to steer a market economy. Locally and abroad, government policies impose regulatory standards for agricultural produce and food; though necessary for health and hygiene, some still include aesthetics.  

The Slow Food Movement brings countries together to fight food waste by collecting and cooking leftover food—including unwanted produce.

In the United States, the Department of Agriculture USDA Grades and Standards for Fruits and Vegetables dictate an exacting language to describe the physical conditions of produce to be sold in stores. Yet, it’s necessary to point out that not all consumers subscribe to these rules. Here in the Philippines, market vendors chop and repackage un-pretty produce into ready-to-cook kits for a cheaper price. Worldwide, various organizations are working to reduce the escalating problem of food waste and hunger by changing this consumer behavior at the community level.

The Slow Food Movement brings countries together on World Disco Soup Day, the international day to fight food waste by collecting and cooking leftover food—including unwanted produce.

At the end of the day, how much do we even truly care about how a carrot or a mango looks, if it’s still good and nutritional enough to eat?

--

Originally published in GRID Volume 07.

root crop
okra


This story was originally published in

Volume 7 | The Food Issue

Others Also Read these

A Meat-Eater’s Rumination

A Meat-Eater’s Rumination

The choice to go organic is about more than meeting consumer demand. As it turns out, what’s good for us is good for our local farmers, as well.

Read More >>
The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt

Once famed as the Unbroken Salt of Albur, Bohol’s Asin Tibuok stands today on the brink of extinction. Amidst fire, water, and ash, the last of its makers fight to keep their traditions alive.

Read More >>
On Style and Sustainability

On Style and Sustainability

We ask three leaders from the local fashion industry to help us understand the true meaning of circularity.

Read More >>

Watch & Listen:

What happens when a community bands together to save its resources?

Chapter 2: Apo Island

What happens when a community bands together to save its resources?
Watch >>Listen >>
Amidst the relentless beat of Toyo Eatery's daily prep, Chef Jordy Navarra takes us through one of his ongoing experiments, a closer look at the humble bird using the simplest of local dishes, grilled chicken.

GRID Eats | Jordy Navarra

Amidst the relentless beat of Toyo Eatery's daily prep, Chef Jordy Navarra takes us through one of his ongoing experiments, a closer look at the humble bird using the simplest of local dishes, grilled chicken.
Watch >>Listen >>
One of the challenges for scientists working in conservation is translating studies and data into actionable policies. How do we make communities a participant in marine conservation?

Chapter 3: Beyond The Science

One of the challenges for scientists working in conservation is translating studies and data into actionable policies. How do we make communities a participant in marine conservation?
Watch >>Listen >>

Related Products:

Volume 3 | GRID Expedition 2

Volume 3 | GRID Expedition 2

PHP 500 

We tackle the idea of getting lost, and dive into the country's marine protected areas in our second GRID Expedition.
BUY
Issue 14 | A Perfect Brew

Issue 14 | A Perfect Brew

PHP 195 

From our new President’s hometown of Davao to the protected environments of Taal Lake, this issue serves as a reminder that the places we visit are also the places others call home.
BUY
Issue 07 | Summer Adventures

Issue 07 | Summer Adventures

PHP 195 

If you’re looking for an adventure, our ultimate GRID summer guide has a few ideas, from running wild in the Cordilleras to freediving in Moalboal.
BUY