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Ugly Pluckings

Walmart's aiming to cut down on food waste with ‘ugly' produce
Photo: Rusty Clark via Flickr

Walmart, the country’s largest grocer, is hopping on the “ugly” produce bandwagon by starting to sell imperfect apples at 300 of its Florida stores this week, NPR reports.

Allow us to explain: “Ugly” produce are fruits or vegetables that are perfectly fine to eat but damaged or slightly misshapen. American consumers in recent years have been less likely to buy these products, and many are ending up in landfills.

On Walmart’s official blog, SVP of produce Shawn Baldwin explains:

One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits. While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.

According to JoAnne Berkenkamp of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "We've typically found that growers reported [cosmetic-related] losses ranging up to 20 percent of production in a given year, but it could be higher in years of bad weather." For apples, that number goes as high as 30 percent.

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Walmart isn’t the only company to start addressing this. Recently Hasbro, who manufactures Mr. Potato Head toys issued a special-edition doll with a misshapen body to underline the issue. Whole Foods has also started to integrate ugly produce into its shops. And in Denmark, a store dedicated to selling food like this opened to quite a bit of attention.

Still, Walmart’s size could signify a larger shift, says Jordan Figueiredo, who launched a petition online (which currently has 144,000 signatures) to pressure the grocery giant.  

The imperfect apples, which come in five-pound bags, hail from a Washington State company ironically called I’m Perfect. Walmart has also been testing out ugly potatoes at 400 stores in Texas.

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