When we hear someone mention a certain food, our brain has already attached that particular food with a preset image. For instance, you hear a coworker say they’re buying some apples on their way home. What picture immediately pops into your head? It’s highly likely you’re envisioning a perfectly-shaped, red apple, maybe a Gala or a Fuji? Or maybe you envisioned a perfectly smooth Granny Smith in a perfect shade of green?
Why perfect? It’s because perfect equals pretty, according to your local supermarket. A place where every fruit or vegetable being sold is expected to be flawless or pretty darn close. Why? Pretty food sells.
Because we shop with our eyes first, supermarkets spend a lot of time figuring out the best ways to visually grab our attention. Their overall objective is to display foods that are appealing to the eye. And it’s easy for them to do. Currently, large scale farmers are required to abide by the USDA’s requirement that all fruits and vegetable need to be at least 90% blemish free.
This is the main reason why the majority of grocery food shoppers have never even seen what’s now being called "ugly food." In fact, American farmers alone discard more than six billion pounds of fruits and vegetables every year because they’re considered to be too ugly to sell to consumers. What a waste!
Ugly Food Movement
Credit for the Ugly Food Movement can be given to Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine. "The ugly food movement embraces the potential of funny-looking or smaller-sized fruits, vegetables, and other wild-looking edibles. If, as consumers, we can change our mindset so we see gnarled, twisted, lumpy or otherwise imperfect produce as beautiful, we can create demand, change the system, and ultimately help feed the world."
Since the recent launch of the Ugly Food Movement last year, large chain supermarkets are now interested in selling ugly food, too. Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch is launching The Daily Table, a store that will specialize in expired and ugly foods. High-end chain Raley’s Food Store has more than 100 stores in California and Nevada and will soon be launching a pilot program in ten of their Northern California stores by the name of Real Good Produce
Where Can You Find Ugly Food?
The best place for you to start looking for ugly produce options in your city is your local Farmers Market. You may even get a better deal because you can negotiate with the actual food producers. If your city doesn’t have a Farmers Market, then ask the manager of your local supermarket’s produce section if they currently sell or are expecting to start selling ugly produce anytime soon. (There could be a small, hard-to-find section where these types of foods are displayed, so asking for assistance could prove to be helpful.)
If the answer is no on both counts, then ask if they have a list of local farmers they’re currently doing business with that they can give you. This way, you can contact the farmers directly to let them know you’re interested in getting information from them about purchasing any ugly food they may have at a discount. Depending on how much ugly food they have available, you may even consider asking friends and/or family if they want to go in on buying a large amount of ugly fruits and vegetables at an even greater discount. It’s a win-win.
For those who love convenience, the option to have ugly produce delivered right to your door is now available. Well, it’s currently only available in the San Francisco area, but plans for country wide expansion are now in effect as orders continue to grow, proving that people are showing a definite interest in buying delicious, nutritious ugly food. And why not? This ugly food delivery program is claiming their customers are saving close to 60% off retail prices. It’s a truly great deal for those living on a tight food budget.
The current and quickly growing Ugly Food Movement is a win for all. Supermarkets will make more money by catering to environmentally-savvy consumers. Consumers will save up to 40% off the purchase of ugly food (compared to pretty food prices). And farmers won’t be stuck with hundreds and even thousands of pounds of ugly fruits and vegetable, which is usually taken as a loss.
Remember that it truly doesn’t matter what your food looks like. What matters is how good it tastes and how good it is for you. Naturally grown food is almost always going to have a few blemishes, and that’s perfectly okay.
Other names for ugly food include ugly produce, imperfect produce, and broken food.
Laura Foor is a freelance writer who specializes in writing quality articles for online publication for 6+ years. Graduating from UCB with a degree in Environmental Sciences in 2009, she also works part time as a Farmers Market manager where she focuses on healthy food education.