亞洲新聞台(新加坡)CNA INSIDER-Why Are We Throwing Away Perfectly Edible Food? | Food, Wasted 1/3
[00:00 - 00:16] Thank you so much. So, who doesn't love chicken, right? Look at this spread. We got thighs, we got wings, we have drumsticks, and chicken breast. Aiyo, the one.
[00:16 - 00:32] Well, apparently, the reality is that many of us wouldn't actually be choosing this cut. Chicken thigh and chicken drumsticks, it's super popular, but other parts like chicken breast, that's less popular in Asia. One thing that we forget, they come as a whole. You have to queue a whole chicken to get the chicken thigh
[00:32 - 00:48] and chicken drumstick. And all the unpopular parts that don't get bought up? They join a massive graveyard of perfectly good, usable chicken parts. It's around 7 to 15 tonnes. Wait, every day? Yeah.
[00:48 - 01:04] That's about the weight of a bus! And this is just for chickens from one supplier. Now, we thought that was shocking, but get this, globally, we actually waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year. That's about one third of all the food we grow for human consumption.
[01:04 - 01:20] A lot of it is perfectly edible food that shouldn't be wasted in the first place. And we're not just talking about the leftovers on our dinner plates. In industrialised parts of Asia, cities like Hong Kong, Mumbai, Jakarta, and Singapore,
[01:20 - 01:36] it has a lot to do with our choices. We're not just talking about the leftovers on our dinner plates. It has a lot to do with our choices, like whether to buy food that's nearing expiry. So, those that cannot make it, go to the top shelf here. We used to throw like 100 tubs
[01:36 - 01:52] of about 50 kilos of yoghurt. But they're still good for consumption. More than 50% of our food waste here actually happens at the consumer and retail and distribution stage. That is a staggering amount of food that could be perfectly edible, but just isn't perfect.
[01:52 - 02:20] but just isn't perfect. First up, why is so much food that's perfectly safe to eat being thrown away? And what can we do to fix this? Normally, this one, we will take
[02:20 - 02:36] the range from between 38 to 41 cm. Every day, these suppliers get tons of fresh produce that they've got to test for size, temperature and sweetness. If the sizes are uneven, the buyers over the other side will definitely
[02:36 - 02:52] not accept. Surely, it's a little extreme? Surely, it's a little extreme? Consumers actually want the best when they pay. That trickles down to customers being more stringent in their requirements.
[02:52 - 03:08] She's talking about these, rows and rows of pristine produce on supermarket shelves that fit a certain beauty standard. To meet the expectations of retailers and consumers,
[03:08 - 03:24] farmers like Mr Ho sometimes have to go to great lengths to ensure every fruit is as perfect as possible. To get perfectly coloured mandarin oranges,
[03:24 - 03:56] Mr Ho used to stick paper on each affected fruit, like this.
[04:16 - 04:36] in Singapore. So, here's the thing.
[04:36 - 04:52] Most of this produce and meat is safe to eat. They're rejected because of cosmetic flaws. For many suppliers, it's easier to throw them out than to try to find buyers for them. But there's another reason why suppliers are throwing out crates of
[04:52 - 05:08] perfectly edible food into the trash. It's called buffering. To illustrate, let's go back to our fowl problem. Singapore imports live chickens from farms around the region,
[05:08 - 05:24] and each day, they're freshly slotted here in numbers that are determined by projected demand. The thing is, buyers, like supermarkets, don't want to risk
[05:24 - 05:40] running out of chicken. So, they contractually bind their suppliers to bring in an additional 10-20% of buffer stock, just in case. But what happens if that buffer isn't needed after all? The retailer isn't obligated to take this
[05:40 - 05:56] out of 10,000 or 20,000 chickens. They try to sell it. If they can't, they store it. If they store it for too long, they throw it. Because the next day, it's going to come in at another 100,000. They can't clear it away as well. So, it just keeps rolling on and on and on.
[05:56 - 06:12] Storage space is expensive as well. When the fresh chicken suppliers approached us to tell us that they had around 7 to 15 tonnes of wasted chickens to clear already, I was just like, how much money are you guys throwing away every single day?
[06:12 - 06:34] What really shocked me was when I head down to their slaughterhouses and I saw the whole process of the slaughtering, then it hit me, it's not really just 7 to 15 tonnes of food being wasted, but 7 to 15 tonnes of lives that are being thrown away. This one's 28.
[06:34 - 06:50] Today's like 23rd. Today is it 23rd? Oh, 25th. We only have three days left, so we can't really sell this. For suppliers like Artusco, who deal with processed foods, it's these best-by
[06:50 - 07:06] and expiry date labels that can pose a problem in moving their goods. Take the organic yogurts, for example. For the online grocers, whatever they buy has to have a minimum shelf life
[07:06 - 07:22] of like 8 days. Which means, when there's a delay of just a few days in the shipment of yogurt, retailers won't accept the stock, even when the yogurt is still perfectly safe for consumption. We used to throw away a lot. We used to throw like
[07:22 - 07:38] 100 pups of about 50 kilos of yogurt whenever we had issues with flight delays or damaged goods. You can't really blame the supermarkets. They've tried to arrange items that are closer to the expiration date at the front of the
[07:38 - 07:54] display in order to clear them first. But many of us will simply reach for the items at the back, with the longer shelf life, just to play it safe. And so all these guys get left behind. Whenever there's waste, I think,
[07:54 - 08:10] what way can I save them? Would anyone want them if I were to give them away? Hi Mel! Hello! Good morning! Thank you! Thank you! At half price, we can actually afford
[08:10 - 08:26] more than the price itself. They're trying to use up food that would otherwise go to waste. So as it turns out, there are consumers out there, like Melissa, who aren't so fussed about food that is nearing their expiry dates, or that come with little dents and dings.
[08:26 - 08:42] In fact, there are at least 20,000 of them in Singapore going by this one app. If let's say they have some defects, they will put it there, like this red cheddar slices. Since 2016,
[08:42 - 08:58] TreatShare has been a platform for suppliers to sell their less than perfect goods directly to consumers. So where we come in is a secondary channel for them to start selling items that they could not have found other channels to sell. Suppliers put
[08:58 - 09:14] up, consumers see whatever there is, and then they go about ordering as you would on an e-commerce platform. In Hong Kong, a group of young people have gone even further to prove a point. Hello, welcome to
[09:14 - 09:30] Green Price in Central Hong Kong. They've opened actual physical stores that sell nothing but near-expiry goods. It's just the beginning. Their goal? To try to change Hong Kongers' mindsets with a bit of personal
[09:30 - 09:46] attention. Most of them do not really know there are a difference between a best-before date and the use-by date and that contributes to the fact that they are not that willing to purchase items which is short-dated.
[09:46 - 10:02] Staff will explain to customers that the best-before date is only a guide and that even food products three months past the date are still safe to consume. The message seems to have worked. Four years since their first store, the social enterprise now has four
[10:02 - 10:18] stores that are helping nearly 700 suppliers sell off their near- expiry goods to customers who are mainly younger, eco-conscious and white-collar workers. But what about all that other
[10:18 - 10:40] food that's been labelled ugly? Not the right size, defective, or simply surplus? The food that nobody wants? Well, for one thing, that's not quite true. Remember orange farmer
[10:40 - 10:58] Mr Ho? He sells his ugly oranges to this social enterprise to turn them into jams for sale. The jams are doing so well.
[10:58 - 11:16] They've won awards and are used by several F&B businesses. So?
[11:16 - 11:32] Over in Singapore, social enterprise TreeDocs has been seeking out food businesses that are more than willing to buy all that unwanted, surplus chicken, meat and food. And at a real bargain price too.
[11:44 - 12:08] They're now supplying over 1,300 businesses, and more recently, they've been reaching out directly to consumers too, those who don't mind a little imperfection in their food. Rachel and her neighbours buy groceries
[12:08 - 12:24] in bulk from TreeDocs every week. They're one of 82 group-buy communities that are shopping with the platform. TreeDocs is also
[12:24 - 12:46] finding ways to channel the food to those who need it most, by collaborating with the Food Bank and DBS to donate supplies to underprivileged families.
[13:02 - 13:24] For instance, new TreeDocs customers will ask questions like But all these complaints,
[13:24 - 13:42] they can actually be a good thing. TreeDocs is also getting more
[13:42 - 14:00] eyeballs on its products, by working with supermarkets like Howmart. In the two years since TreeDocs started, it's saved about 2,300 tonnes of food. But it's really just a drop in the ocean. Slowly but surely,
[14:00 - 14:16] folks are being won over. Most people feel whatever they do will not have an adequate impact. But I think people need to rise above these misgivings that they have. Once they become a part of the solution, albeit
[14:16 - 14:32] a very small part of the solution, they can begin to influence others and take others along with them. Consumers would say, well, supermarkets offer only these kind of choices, and then the supermarkets say, well, consumers are only after these particular selections.
[14:32 - 14:48] I think both have a responsibility to do. Alright, to summarise, here's what you can do to help reduce the amount of perfectly edible food that gets thrown away. For example, if you're planning to eat your
[14:48 - 15:04] yogurt today, it's okay if it's expiring tomorrow. Don't judge your vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood or cereals by their cover. Check that they're still good to eat. Remove the slightly dented parts if you must, or even repurpose
[15:04 - 15:20] it into something else. Buy and use a whole chicken or fish if you can, and not just the parts. Lastly, support players like GreenPrice or TreeDots that help to reduce food waste. It could go a long way in changing the industry for the
[15:20 - 15:36] better. In the next two episodes, we'll be taking you across Asia. Get this soda, mate! We ask the questions, why does so much food get lost in our supply chain even before making it to
[15:36 - 16:12] our dinner tables? They stack all the fruits, the bottom of it, how damaged they might be. And will bringing back farming into our cities actually make us appreciate our food better? We want people to experience how hard it is growing their own food.