On the Money

Food is food, whether its 'ugly' or 'pretty,' Food and Wine says


Don't throw out that odd-shaped piece of fruit. A new movement called "love ugly food" wants you to change your behavior and embrace the ugly.

"It's staggering," said Food & Wine Editor-In-Chief Dana Cowin, that "so much food goes to waste in this country just because of its size, shape, color and appearance."

A Natural Resources Defense Council study recently found that as much as 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. goes uneaten. Meanwhile, 20 percent of all produce is wasted in the U.S. because shoppers think it's not "perfect" in appearance.

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In an interview with CNBC's "On The Money," Cowin said people should change their thinking. She argued that ugly and disfigured food will taste just as good as the picture-perfect kind.

"They're tossed because they're imperfect just in the way they look, not the way they taste," Cowin said.

Ugly tastes just as good as pretty

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Toward that end, Food & Wine has launched a social media initiative called "#loveuglyfood." Its goal is to generate awareness about food waste and encourage people to "embrace all that is edible, not just what is beautiful," the editor said.

So far, #loveuglyfood has generated more than one million impressions on Twitter, with more than 900 photos tagged on Instagram. The most popular was a Food & Wine editorial photo from Fredrika Stjarne, which received 6,738 likes.

Cowin told CNBC she got involved in the movement from several chefs and from an advertising campaign by a French supermarket chain, Intermarche.

France's third-largest supermarket did a side-by-side taste test on smoothies and soups, comparing food that was made from "ugly" produce with food made with "perfect" ones. The results were surprising.

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"Both tasted the same, " Cowin said. "People couldn't tell the difference"

Cowin acknowledged there are legitimate reasons why some ugly food should be discarded. For example, some fruit and vegetables may be infested with bugs, or its texture might be squishy. "Those indeed should be taken out of the food system, but we're talking about things that are just esthetically not what we consider 'beautiful,' but slightly dinged or bent."

Since most "ugly" food doesn't actually make it to supermarket shelves, Cowin said, "People should embrace misshapen, dinged produce by going to the greenmarket and buying directly from the farmer."

With increased awareness, Cowin hopes people will change their personal behavior and reduce food waste.

"We need to find the beauty inside these vegetables, and not only on the outside."

"On the Money" airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 p.m., or check listings for air times in local markets.