UglyTomato - ©

Ugly Produce Day: ‘Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship’?

We’ve spotlighted before in this space the social crime of food waste. We’ve also noted that mountains of perfectly edible, nutritious food are regularly ploughed under and landfilled in the name of ‘pretty’ food. Now, one farmer is championing Ugly Produce…

Ugly Produce - © 2023 CTV NewsTypical ‘Ugly Produce’: Supermarkets won’t even look at misshapen potatoes like these. Even
though they’re perfectly wholesome and nutritious. Are consumers brainwashed?

Tyler Heppell of Heppell Potato Corp. in Surrey, BC wants us all to stop discriminating against ‘Ugly Produce’. To promote his plea, Heppell is urging farmers and consumers to support his proposal for a National Ugly Produce Day.

“About 30 per cent off all crops grown never make it to the store, whether it’s logistic issues or just the way it looks,” Heppell told CTV News. “If you go look at our grocery stores, everything has to look pristine to be sold, and that’s something we’re trying to change.”

A bonanza for the hungry

“Foodbanks are being overrun right now with new clients and not being able to provide for everyone. And yet there is this rampant food waste happening,” Heppell notes.

His family has been hosting a food giveaway day for years. He asks for cash donations to the food bank from those able to pay something. But for everyone else, the food is free.

At his farm’s last food give-away Heppell reports: “We gave away almost 30,000 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 pounds of squash and there was 11,000 pounds of carrots as well.”

The problem behind ‘Pretty Food’

Supermarkets only want to display and sell the choicest, most uniform, blemish-free fruits and veggies. It’s a point of competition for a retailer to offer customers the ‘prettiest’ produce they can source.

Food wholesalers want to serve their supermarket customers as best they can. So they demand that farmers deliver them only the best produce, pre-sorted for ripeness and size, as well as appearance perfection.

The result is truckloads of perfectly good food are landfilled or ploughed under. They never even make it out of the farm gate.

Have consumers been brainwashed?

It almost seems as though consumers have been brainwashed by the supermarkets’ policy of selling only ‘perfect’ produce. Sure, there may be some blemishes that will need to be cut out, Heppell admits. But ugly produce is exactly the same food as the prettier stuff at the store.

In a show of support for sustainable agriculture and humanitarian goals, some supermarkets have begun selling off-size, gnarly-shaped and blemished produce. These foods are usually sold at reduced prices compared to ‘perfect’ produce. Alas, these efforts, as far as I’ve seen, have been token at best. But that’s not surprising. After all, selling too much ‘Ugly Produce’ would cut into the stores’ already thin profits. But that’s another story, and another controversy…

Help Heppell

Tyler Heppell needs your help! He says other farms are starting to participate in Ugly Produce giveaways. But he’s determined to make it a national movement.

Contact him via the farm’s website. He’ll be happy to get you started on your on effort to save less-than-perfect food!

~ Maggie J.