Would You Buy a Wonky Parsnip?


If you watched the program ‘Hugh’s War on Waste’ recently, you’ll know why I’m bringing this subject up today. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s (The guy from River Cottage) program recently featured on the BBC brought to the fore the problem we have with food waste in the UK, much of which could be prevented if we as consumers either changed the way we shop or if supermarkets started selling things like wonky looking parsnips, which they argue customers ‘apparently’ wouldn’t buy.

The problem with the wonky parsnips and other fruit and veg alike is a big one. If you missed the program then to give you a bit of an idea of what was discussed it explained that, due to the fact that supermarkets will only accept and sell vegetables that meet their ‘cosmetic’ standards – certain shapes, sizes or even colours etc., tons upon tons of fresh food is literally being wasted each and every day even though it is perfectly edible.

The program showed that on just one UK parsnip farm, over 20 tons of parsnips were being wasted each week due to this issue. To make the problem relatable to consumers, Hugh arranged for the wasted parsnips – which were due to be disposed of – to be placed into shopping trolleys. It was estimated that the waste – from just one week, on one parsnip farm don’t forget – would fill around 280 shopping trolleys to the brim! Shocking, isn’t it?

Sending farmers out of business

The owners of the parsnip farm were also interviewed on the program and it was clear to see that the problem wasn’t just one of wasted food but it was also a problem of a destruction of livelihoods. The waste issues being created by the supermarkets exacting cosmetic standards were making this particular farmer’s business unviable, to the point where the farm was on the brink of having to call it a day after generations of being in operation. It was clearly an emotional time for them and it was also clear that the dire straits they were in was the only reason they felt brave enough to go on camera and talk about the issue, as they seemed very aware that the game was pretty much up for them and they were likely hoping that speaking out might prevent the same tragedy from occurring to other fellow farmers too.


So would you buy a wonky parsnip?

When you think about all of this and if you get a chance to watch the program, it really does feel as though is it all very unethical on so many levels. Letting good food go to waste like this when people are queuing up at food banks around the country because they can’t afford to eat, whilst at the same time putting farmers out of business is clearly wrong. Then we also have supermarkets profiting from it. So it only leaves one question in my mind, would you buy a wonky or slightly misshapen parsnip if it meant that these problems were resolved?

I assume that our veg would be cheaper to buy, as less produce would be going to waste. I assume that farmers would find it easier to stay in business if we as consumers were to make it clear that we had no problem buying this very slightly imperfect produce. So would you buy a wonky parsnip? I’d like to think that I would, but then I’m not saying that I haven’t been prone to reaching for the more ‘normal’ looking ones when I’ve bought them loose in the past. Maybe next time I’ll deliberately reach for the wonky ones to make my small stand against food waste and hopefully support our local farmers. Will you?

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