Have you worried about your food today?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Rachel Laudan on Food Waste... John Cogan on Entitlements and...

Do you ever feel a pang of guilt when you throw food scraps in the trash? Do you hear your mother's voice reminding you of starving children in far-flung corners of the globe? Have you ever thought you should be composting? What different sorts of choices have you thought you should make? Counseled others to make? time waste.jpg This week's EconTalk guest, historian Rachel Laudan, argues that food waste has become a moral issue, and that's the wrong way to frame it. Laudan's conversation with host Russ Roberts tries to restructure the argument about food waste and make thinking about our food choices less "neurotic."

What are your thoughts on this week's episode? Are you comfortable in our current (American) food culture, or do you agree that the system is broken? We'd love to continue the conversation.

1. Laudan says there is "a religious aspect" to the way people think about food choices. Roberts says it's all lexicographical. What do they mean, and what do you think has brought this state of affairs about? To what extent do you think the moralization of food choices is permanent?

2. What are some of the ironies Laudan notes in the debate over fresh food (or as Roberts dubs it, the war against processed foods)? To what extent is the current emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetable overblown...or even dangerous?

3. Watch this YouTube video about a dinner party hosted by a vegetarian. What makes this video ironic (or not)?

4. Is there anything from this week's episode that has made you consider changing any aspect of your own behavior? If so, what (and how's it going)?

5. What element or elements of our food system really are broken, and what would you suggest as (at least) a first step toward repair?

Comments and Sharing

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Bernard Musyck writes:

I was surprised that the discussion did not touch sufficiently on the fact that food waste is in fine a waste of energy and thus the unnecessary production of CO2.

Greg Alder writes:

Fewer laws regulating the food system is a change that I think would be an improvement.

An example that is both timely and touches on the topic of food waste regards avocados. The Food Safety Modernization Act has made it illegal to distribute produce that drops to the ground before harvesting.

So, right this minute we have winds knocking fruit from trees in Southern California, not to mention whipping fire through groves, and the fruit is basically dead on the ground.


Up until just this week, however, when strong Santa Ana winds hit Southern California and knocked avocados from trees those avocados could be sold, as long as they were mature.

We're talking thousands of avocados per acre that can fall during a strong Santa Ana wind event. This is not just a few fruit that the farmer's family can consume. Thousands of avocados wasted.

Make no mistake: this new law is not keeping avocado consumers safe. Windfall avocados are as safe to eat today as they were before the Food Safety Modernization Act. I for one have been eating windfall avocados all my life, and in fact I've got some ripening on my kitchen counter as I type this.

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