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AAEA Member Research: Is Food Waste Overstated?

New paper takes fresh look at measuring the extent of food waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year. That’s about 1.3 billion pounds of food.

Food waste has become a hot-button issue. A quick Google search gets you more than 16 million results. But is the extent of the problem estimated accurately or is it rhetoric?

“The extent of food waste—in terms of quantity and value—appears overstated in many cases,” says Marc Bellemare of the University of Minnesota. Bellemare is the one of the authors of “On the Measurement of Food Waste,” a paper recently selected to be published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

“From an economic perspective, food waste appears to be a byproduct of improved living standards,” Bellemare said. “Worldwide, there is a positive relationship between income per capita and the amount of food wasted per person.”

In this paper, Bellemare and co-authors present what they call a “more consistent and practical approach” to measuring food waste and, in doing so, identify the specific and strategic areas policy makers could exploit in dealing with the problem.

If you are interested in reading the paper and setting up an interview, please contact Jay Saunders in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 20 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices. To learn more, visit

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