Research and investigations
Feedback’s groundbreaking investigations have traced the supply chains that bring our food from farms around the world to supermarket shelves. At every stage of the supply chain, Feedback has uncovered evidence of systemic waste, often driven by supermarket practices. Our evidence has driven change in policy and supermarket practices, particularly to combat unfair trading practices which damage farmers’ interest and generate vast quantities of waste.
Our new report reveals that a change of law could liberate up to 2.5 million tonnes of currently wasted food from the UK’s manufacturing, retail and catering sectors to be fed to pigs – 20% of the UK’s estimated food waste. Feeding pigs on food leftovers is an age-old practice, but in 2001 it was made illegal to feed most types of food waste to pigs, when the Foot and Mouth outbreak was traced back to a farmer feeding his pigs with improperly treated food waste. This was enshrined in EU law in 2002, but the UK’s exit from the EU now means the UK has the opportunity to reform this law. The report presents the evidence for safe feeding of food surplus to pigs, risk management and benefits.
We ranked the UK’s top ten supermarkets based on publicly available information on their work to reduce food waste. Our ranking assessed the supermarkets against the food use hierarchy which requires that prevention be the priority towards tackling waste.
Tesco is ranked at number one, while Waitrose came out at the bottom of the pack. Other supermarkets known for their strong reputations on sustainability, including Co-op and Marks & Spencer, also scored poorly. The ranking assessed the supermarkets against four categories of best practice in addressing waste. The categories included: action to prevent food waste, such as measuring and publishing data on food waste in their supply chain and adopting targets to cut waste; action to make sure that edible surplus food reaches people in need through charities, rather than being thrown away; action to redirect suitable inedible food surplus to be made into animal feed; action to avoid edible food being used to produce bio-gas instead of being eaten. The principles of this best practice are enshrined in UK law under the Waste Regulations 2011, which require all businesses to make reasonable efforts to address their surplus and waste according to the waste hierarchy.
Based on Feedback’s experience working with farmers through our Gleaning Network, and a survey of farmers, this report examines the systemic role that supermarkets play in the overproduction and subsequent waste of food on UK Farms. Food waste represents an ecological catastrophe of staggering proportion: meanwhile, farmers we surveyed reported reported that together they wasted approximately 22,000-37,000 tonnes per year, equal to enough produce to provide up to 250,000 people with five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a year. Read the full report.
This report, published in 2017 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is based on extensive research into supply chain food waste in Peru, Senegal, South Africa, the UK and a major European port. The report’s findings show a concentration of power in the groceries sector has allowed supermarkets to dictate the terms and conditions by which food is grown, harvested, and transported, and that this concentration of power has given supermarkets the power to force suppliers to waste food through stringent cosmetic specifications and unfair rejections of food. Read the full report here.
We also produced country specific reports examining mangos in Senegal and food waste amidst water scarcity in Peru:
Find out more about our campaigning on food waste in supply chains.
Feedback’s report “Food waste in Kenya: Uncovering food waste in the horticultural export supply chain” revealed that Kenyan farmers are being subjected to unfair trading practices such as last minute cancellation of orders and unnecessarily strict cosmetic standards by European retail buyers resulting in massive amounts of food waste. As a result of Feedback’s work, in April 2016 Tesco agreed to change their rules on Kenyan green beans to stop forcing their supplyers to top and tail their produce. They estimate this will save more than 160 tonnes of food waste a year. Read the full report here.
Feedback’s position papers
Read Feedback’s submissions to policy consultations, and other position papers on food waste and related food system issues.
Contributions to other work:
Feedback’s contribution to Envisioning a future without food waste and food poverty: societal challenges, draws on our research in Kenya with a focus on the distinction between food waste and food losses. The report includes work from academics from fifteen countries and different disciplines and discusses proposals and strategies in order to respond to the desire for a world without waste or food poverty. This report was the result of a conference of the same name held in Bilbao in October 2015.
A report for the Make Fruit Fair! campaign “Banana value chains in Europe and the consequences of Unfair Trading Practices” shows how increasing market power and Unfair Trading Practices of European supermarkets affect banana small farmers and plantation workers. Feedback contributed to this report by conducting a two-week research trip to Costa Rica which provided photographs and documented case studies from the banana and pineapple industries.
The All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group report “Link To Link: Driving resource efficiency across supply chains” calls for the UK to move towards a system where the entire supply chain of products employs the circular model. Feedback’s case-study into unfair trading practices reflects on the need for regulation over the relationship between retailers and their indirect suppliers to ensure a more sustainable, equitable and circular food system.