Skip Navigation

Improving Food Loss Estimates and Modeling

Economic Research Service

Contacts

Jean C. Buzby, Diet, Safety, and Health Economics Branch Chief, Food Economics Division, Economic Research Service, USDA

Cheryl C. Christensen, Food Security and Development Branch Chief, Market and Trade Economics Division, Economic Research Service, USDA

Objective

ERS’s specific objectives for the U.S. Food Waste Challenge are: (1) to improve annual estimates of food loss at the retail level in the United States, and (2) to develop a consistent and globally applicable conceptual model for estimating post-harvest food losses.

Activity 1: Improving Food Loss Estimates at the Retail Level

ERS will update the food loss estimates for fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and seafood at the retail level in the United States. These estimates will be used as loss assumptions in the ERS Loss Adjusted Food Availability (LAFA) data. The LAFA are derived from ERS per capita food availability data adjusted for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual per capita intake. This data series was primarily designed to estimate daily estimates of the per capita number of calories and food-pattern equivalents of the five major food groups plus the amounts of added sugars and sweeteners and added fats and oils. These are also used to estimate food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States. The LAFA data series is considered preliminary. 

This activity will be completed by spring 2015.

Activity 2: Developing a Model for Estimating Post-harvest Losses

ERS and its collaborators will develop a consistent and globally applicable conceptual model for estimating post-harvest food losses based on a literature review and industry and other expert consultations. This model will identify the different stages in the farm-to-fork chain that are critical for food loss and the important factors affecting losses within each stage. While the model will be comprehensive to allow global applicability, not all stages or variables may be pertinent in the actual estimation of post-harvest losses for individual country or commodity. A second phase of the project will expand the conceptual model to cover econometric modeling of food losses for specific commodities and countries. The effort will begin by focusing on a cereal (e.g., rice) and a high-value-product (e.g., onion) as prototypes. This project will be conducted jointly with Purdue University under ERS/USDA Cooperative Agreement.  Other collaborators include researchers from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

This activity will be completed by spring 2016.