China wastes 32.6 billion USD annually on leftover dining table food, announced Wu Zidan, director of China’s State Administration of Grain. It’s unknown whether Wu is referring to edible leftover food, or those gross, half-chewed bones that somehow end up in your lap in back-alley restaurants.
In addition, roughly 35 billion kilograms of grain is wasted yearly in storage, transportation, and processing, which is surprising since the Chinese system has been lauded as one of the world’s most efficient. A number of officials from India have even visited the Chinese grain storage facilities to reduce waste in their country, and are probably regretting the trip now.
Some experts blame the waste on an old Chinese tradition in which guests leave food in dishes and on plates as a sign of respect to their hosts, as finishing may indicate the food provided was not enough.
With one of the world’s largest populations, China can’t afford to discard so much food. Growing concerns about pollution, diminished land/water sources and the demand for rapid urbanization have further increased the strain on agriculture in the country. The irony is not lost on those who remember the massive hotpot feast, the largest naan bread extravaganza, and the record-breaking youtiao. There’s no way that entire naan was consumed. No. Way.
The total estimated amount of food thrown away from restaurants and homes could feed 200 million people, or to put it in perspective, the entire population of Brazil.
That’s a lot of youtiao.
By Briel Waxman