According to Vox's Chavie Lieber, one-fifth of produce in the U.S. is tossed because it is unattractive. Translated, $160 billion worth of fruits and vegetables is wasted every year. But just because a piece of fruit is ugly does not mean it's inedible. Companies like Imperfect Produce are working to make better use of food that might otherwise go straight to a landfill.
According to ABC News, Imperfect Produce is working to limit waste by selling ugly produce to consumers directly:
...the company purchases produce with cosmetic flaws from more than 150 farmers and producers, and delivers it to consumers for a 30-50 percent discount compared to grocery stores.
According to some, Imperfect Produce and similar companies are not telling the whole story. Oftentimes, imperfect foods are donated to local food banks rather than thrown away. Food and Wine's Gowri Chandra argues the ugly produce market aims to make money off of environmentally-conscious millennials. Chandra looks to L.A. Kitchen president Robert Egger for insight:
“Farmers used to be like, ‘Hey man, I can’t sell this, so I’m going to give this to the food bank.’ That’s happening less and less,” he says. “The market forces are driving food waste towards reinvestment and profitability versus down towards charity. What will happen in three years, six years, or nine years demands a vigorous re-examination of our food system.”
Some also argue the concept of selling "ugly" produce is not sustainable. Fruits and vegetables might not survive the boxed-journey to your doorstep.
According to Misfits Market founder, Abhi Ramesh, ugly produce companies take great care to make sure foods are not spoiled when they arrive. He also assures consumers that Misfits, in particular, does not sell food that would otherwise be donated. Instead, it sells only food that farmers can not afford to donate due to transportation costs. Ramesh tells Vox's Lieber:
A very small percentage of commercial farms have the infrastructure to donate their misfits to food banks and soup kitchens. Those are not the ones we work with. But there are tens of thousands of other small to medium farms that don’t have that infrastructure.
It’s usually families in suburban or rural areas who cook seven nights a week and need access to more affordable groceries. Cooking is the more affordable thing to do, because eating out is a privilege.
Ugly produce is helping reduce food waste while also helping the average American family get dinner on the table.