British chef Jamie Oliver: Why don’t we eat ‘wonky’ produce?

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British chef Jamie Oliver: Why don’t we eat ‘wonky’ produce?

Do you remember what food looked like many years ago? I remember ‘double-legged’ carrots. Potatoes that were the most peculiar shape. Double ‘co-joined twins’ strawberries …

It happened gradually but now our produce is all uniformly attractive and ‘normal’. The oranges with the rugged peel are thing of the past. When I buy potatoes, they are all more or less the same size.

But despite modern farming methods,our fruit and vegetables don’t always conform and grow in perfect, ‘marketable shapes. What happens to these misfits? They are discarded. Yes, they are thrown away. They are not donated to charities or used to feed the needy, they are relegated to landfills.

One agency in the UK estimates that 90,000 tonnes of produce is sent to landfills every year in Britain. The Soil Association claims that between 20 and 40% of produce is destroyed simply because it doesn’t look ‘right’.

But consumers don’t feel that aesthetics are necessarily important as recent surveys have shown.

One UK supermarket is now starting to sell ‘ugly’ produce at prices which are up to 30% lower than that of the pretty stuff. Consumers are loving it. Who wouldn’t at such a discount? The food tastes the same, it’s prepared in the same way – it’s simply not as pretty when shown in serried ranks in the supermarket’s produce section.

Who is controlling who here?

Are the supermarkets claiming that the consumer won’t buy misshapen produce? Is it really the consumer demanding uniformity?

Somehow, I doubt it. Or is it the grocery stores that have conditioned us over the years to think that imperfectly presented produce is somehow inferior?

The other question is, is our produce genetically modified to be uniform and pretty?

I’m a designer. I like things to look good; look harmonious. But that doesn’t mean that I want huge amounts of food to be wasted because it simply doesn’t’ look right’.

Jamie Oliver says:

“There’s no difference whatsoever in taste or nutritional value. This is perfectly good food that could and should be eaten by humans. When half a million people in the UK are relying on food banks, this waste isn’t just bonkers – it’s bordering on criminal.”




Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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1 Comment

  1. Well said. Boy would I love to save 30 percent on my produce for a few blemishes or wonky-looking pieces!

    We’ve been buying organic produce for several years now and, while much of it is grown from the same boring varieties developed for easy shipping as conventional produce, some is not. Quite often we can get local produce from heirloom seeds, and therefore not uniform in size, shape and color. We even pay the organic premium for the occasional worm in the apple or bug bite!

    No problem there, as I remember always thinking, as a kid picking up apples on the ground on a sunny fall day, that the apples with a worm in them tasted better than the ones without. Now I know that’s because the worms knew how to pick the ripest apples to burrow into. Back then, I thought that somehow the worms made them taste better. Ha!

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