Meat and Dairy Food Waste: Organic vs Conventional

Abstract: Many retailers take initiatives to reduce food waste, which can lead to enhanced sustainability, including reduced environmental impacts and cost savings. Another common environmental strategy in retail management is to increase the range of organic products. This study examined if organic food products have a higher level of waste, which thereby risk to counteract the environmental ambitions behind offering these products. The study also examined to what degree differences in waste level could be explained by turnover, shelf-life and wholesale pack size. In the study, six Swedish supermarkets provided data on all articles sold or wasted in the deli, meat, dairy and cheese departments during 2010 and 2011. 24 organic products were compared to their conventional counterparts; 22 of these had higher waste levels (from 1.5 to 29 times higher). Differences in wastage were also compared across departments; in all four departments, organic products as a group had higher waste percentage at all four departments. There was a negative correlation between the total mass sold of a product and the percentage waste. Also, longer shelf-life was associated with decreased waste, but only for products with low turnover. The systematic problem of retail food waste - particularly of organic products and other products with a low turnover - may be mitigated by increasing turnover, by stocking products with longer shelf-life or by decreasing the ordered volume (e.g. through decreased wholesale pack sizes). (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Reference: Eriksson, M., et al. (2014). Waste of organic and conventional meat and dairy products-A case study from Swedish retail. Resources Conservation and Recycling 83: 44-52. Available online at