Cooking with Dairy

The Hidden Costs of Food Waste

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Reduce Food Waste

It is estimated that up to 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted.1 While this can occur anywhere along the food supply chain, consumers are the largest contributors to food waste, throwing away an estimated 15 to 25 percent of all food purchased. This totals approximately 133 billion pounds, or 300 pounds per person. Of this, 19 percent, or 25.4 million pounds, are dairy products.2

Food waste has economic, environmental and social implications. It is easy to see the financial costs, as throwing away food is essentially tossing money in the garbage. A family of four throws out an average $1,484 worth of edible food per year.2 While this is significant, the problem goes far beyond your wallet.

Food waste also means missed opportunities to help feed the 14 percent of Americans who are food insecure or lack reliable access to sufficient amounts of food.3 Redirecting unused food to these 48 million people would give them access to nutritious food and help meet their dietary needs so they can live an active, healthy life.2,4 Dairy products can be especially helpful, since they provide a unique package of nine essential nutrients. Find out what dairy farmers and the dairy community are doing to get these nutritious foods to those who need it most and how you can help feed your community.

Child with a glass of milk

The impact of making healthy food choices should not be overlooked. Many experts and organizations state that eating too many calories is also a form of food waste, which can impact health and lead to chronic disease.2 By learning to maximize food choices with healthy, nutrient-rich options, such as dairy products, consumers can meet their nutrient needs without consuming too many calories and achieve better health. In fact, three daily servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products have been shown to improve overall diet quality, promote good health and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.

The majority of food waste ends up in landfills. As the food breaks down it produces methane, a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. In fact, food from landfills is the third largest source of methane in the U.S., contributing nearly one-quarter of all emissions.2

Additionally, natural resources, such as land, water and energy, used to produce unused food also are wasted. In 2007, 28 percent of the world’s land and approximately 25 percent of fresh water was used to produce food that was not consumed.2 Considering global food production must increase by 60 percent by 2050 in order to feed the growing population, maximizing the use of these valuable resources is crucial.

Proud farmer in green soybean field


  1. Henneman A. 14 Ways Consumers Can Reduce Food Waste. University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension. 2015. Accessed June 6, 2016.
  2. Vogliano C, Brown K. The State of America’s Wasted Food and Opportunities to Make a Difference. JAND. 2016. Accessed June 6, 2016.
  3. World Hunger Education Service. Hunger in America: 2015 United States Hunger and Poverty Facts. Accessed April 21, 2016.
  4. Feeding America. Food Waste in America. Accessed May 12, 2016.
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