'Ugly produce' could be a win-win for farmers and consumers

As Loblaw stores expands its line of ugly produce, food industry experts say exposing shoppers to less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables can add to the bottom line of both consumers and farmers.

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An estimated 17 to 19 per cent of food waste occurs at the farm, which, according to Sylvain Charlebois, a professor with the University of Guelph's Food Institute, points to an "upstream problem."

"This initiative… basically provides a window to this problem," Charlebois told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.

With the blemished and misshapen fruits and vegetables costing about 30 per cent less than their perfect counterparts, Charlebois said ugly produce can be a solution for consumers struggling with the higher cost of fresh food.

Loblaw announced earlier this month that it was expanding its line of “Naturally Imperfect” fruits and vegetables.

The company launched a trial run of the line in Ontario and Quebec last year, offering ugly apples and potatoes to shoppers. The grocery chain has said more types of ugly produce will soon be available across the country.

Charlebois noted that ugly fruits and vegetables also provides a good lesson to consumers.

"Mother Nature is not perfect," he said. "Over the next few years, people will feel more comfortable and become more educated about what agriculture is all about."

Stuart McCall of McGrows Farms and Garden in Sudbury, Ont. said the proliferation of imperfect produce could give farmers another revenue stream, as a lot of ugly fruits and vegetables are turned into compost at farms.

He added that expanding the use of imperfect produce will make fresh food more accessible to more Canadians.

"In terms of affordability, I think it's a great idea," McCall said.


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