Food grows in nature. Bugs crawl on it. Fish poop all the time. Cows lick things you wouldn't want to touch. And fruits and vegetables literally grow in dirt — DIRT YOU GUYS. Hey flavonoids, Trace regurgitating some food science for DNews today. We all know food comes from the earth, so why do we expect it to look perfect? Ugly food, or food that doesn't "look right," doesn't get sold, and it makes up a ton of our food supply. According to the USDA 133 billion pounds and 161 billion dollars worth of food was wasted in 2010 by retailers and consumers. That's about 30 percent of all food production! Ugly food is part of that waste. Reducing food waste could help us feed more of our population, without increasing food production, and ugly food is a first step on that path, but it has a big climb to be accepted, because some humans have cognitive bias; we don't roll with the uggos. Humans assume attractive people are smarter, and have fewer diseases, so it would make sense that we'd also assume attractive food is better. There's a principle restauranteurs and chefs use called plating or presentation — chefs place the food on our plates to make it look good. And it works.
A study in the journal Appetite and another in Flavour looked at the importance of the aesthetics of food. They found not only does good looking food positively affect the flavor, but the actual plate it's on also affects how people feel about it. Unfortunately our cognitive bias for attraction likely goes far deeper than people, plating or the plates themselves. Even potatoes have to look good. Since it's founding in 1862 the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been a source of regulation, standardization and knowledge for how we grow and consume food. Today, it fights to comprehend and regulate the U.S. food systems, but some of its original regulations don't make sense anymore." The USDA ranks food by freshness, appearance, color, and size — among other things. Grade A milk, for example, can be used for… well, milk.
While Grade B milk and lower is used for butter, cheese and so on. The idea being to protect the consumer. Milk in liquid form is more susceptible to bacterial infection. But some of these regs don't make sense. Take cauliflower color, for example. Color 1 cauliflower should be "bright white to creamy white," according to USDA standards. But not for a specific reason! The silly thing about USDA recommendations is that cauliflower left in a farmer's field doesn't stay white, it has to be harvested early to meet this standard, because the sun turns it a dull yellow! Yet, "yellow or other abnormal color [that] materially detracts from the appearance" is unacceptable, says the USDA. Our bias against ugly food goes all the way back to regulation. The USDA says this is so we can share a "common language" for our food. But, yellow cauliflower is just as nutritious as white.
Another regulation states that green peppers have to be 90 percent green. Again, same nutrition, just regulated this way for common language. So, because it can affect the grade, and thus the price, this ugly, perfectly nutritious food stays in the field to rot. Any number of things can cause this, from the wrong color, the wrong shape, not enough leaves or too many. On top of that bushels of fruits and vegetables never leave warehouses due to blemishes, bruising, or discoloration. Wasted food has a value of 1 trillion dollars worldwide, and could feed billions more people. Now, the “ugly food movement” to get these weirdo plants harvested and on the dinner table is gaining ground. More grocery stores, farmers markets, and even restaurants are buying and serving "substandard" food. Which is great, because c'mon, it's exactly the same, it just looks weird. And hey, I look weird, but y'all still like me, so why not a green pepper that's like… 85 percent green? Or a potato with an extra bump? Or a double carrot! All the way across the sky. The ugly food movement is making it big lately, and our friends at seeker stories followed a chef who transformed “ugly food” and turned it into an amazing six course meal which was served out of a dumpster.
Seriously, it's weird. But super interesting. Watch it here. Do you care what your food looks like or are you just a human trash compactor? Tell me..