My Mum just sent me this article from today's Times newspaper. Think twice before you bin those almost past-their-best veggies...
Occasionally a statistic emerges that makes you despair at human folly. Yesterday, there were two. The first was that Britons throw away the equivalent of 86 million uneaten chickens every year. That’s three every second. Laid end to end, this monument to waste would run the entire length of the M1 almost 60 times. (Perhaps if it actually did, it might shake us out of our apathy to food waste.)
The second, arguably more shocking statistic, goes some way to explaining the first: almost 40 per cent of young people have no idea that it is safe to freeze a chicken. Such astonishing ignorance of the most basic levels of food storage makes you wonder what exactly is being taught in home economics classes.
The national curriculum demands that children aged 11 to 14 are shown “how to season dishes” and that they “understand the characteristics of ingredients” but there is little point in such levels of sophistication if they can’t comprehend a best-before date.
Of course, it is not just chickens, and it is not only young people. An astonishing two billion potatoes are among the seven million tonnes of food waste that we throw away each year, and everyone is guilty of excessive waste, myself included.
With relative comfort and wealth, western societies have become complacent about food. We appear to have lost simple and sensible practices that were second nature to previous generations. At every opportunity we must remind ourselves that our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and to “waste not, want not”. Young people in particular must be taught the virtues of culinary thrift and the damage, not just the cost, of food profligacy.
For all the collective angst about wasteful packaging, it is actually the food within all that plastic that is far worse for the environment if thrown away. Food waste releases methane when it decomposes, a gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
You do not need to believe in the science of climate catastrophe to realise that responsible husbandry of the planet’s resources makes sense — especially with such a rapidly growing population.
So if you eat roast chicken for lunch this Sunday, why not try chicken risotto on Monday? The bin is only for bones.