Some key points:
Roughly a third of food produced — 1.3 billion tons of the stuff — never makes it from farm to fork, according to the U.N’s Food and Agriculture Organization.
retailers are reckoned to mark down or throw out about 2 percent to 4 percent of meat, for example. Even a tiny reduction in that amount can mean millions of dollars in savings for large chains.
Waste also damages the environment. The amounts of water, fertilizer, fuel and other resources used to produce never-consumed food are vast. The emissions generated during the process of making wasted food exceeds those of Brazil in total.
Squandering meat is particularly damaging: livestock account for more emissions than the world’s vehicle fleet. Consumption is also set to increase by three-quarters by the middle of the century as newly rich diners in China, India and elsewhere develop a taste for it.
Far from being the blight that green critics claim it is, food wrappings can in fact be an environmental boon. By more than doubling the time that some meat items can stay on shelves, for example, better packaging ensures that precious resources are used more efficiently.
The plastic packs, which prevent oxidation, mean meat can stay on shelves for between five and eight days, rather than two to four.
J. Sainsbury said that in the past financial year the store reduced waste by more than half after moving more beefsteak lines into vacuum packing. Kroger now ensures that cheeses arrive at its deli counters in vacuum-packaged bags ready for slicing; Wal-Mart is searching for better ways to wrap meats.
Vacuum packs and other kinds of wrapping do themselves consume energy and resources in their manufacture. But they make more sense than letting food go to waste.
The next frontier for the world of packaging is ensuring that as much of it can be reused as possible. That will be a challenge, however, given the hard-to-recycle layers of plastics that go into most vacuum packs.