Source: Lifeway Kefir

“Oh my gosh, that looks sooooo good, it’s making me hungry.”

Is that a sentiment that has resonated with you at some point or another in your life? Well, you definitely aren’t the only one. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we all like pretty things. Or at least, we prefer them to “ugly” ones. We’ll be the first to admit that we’re no exception to that rule.

It’s human nature, after all, to prefer more attractive-looking things. Heck, even babies prefer to look at more conventionally attractive faces. In our quest to always look for pretty, perfect things, food has become an unsuspecting victim.

These days, our Instagram feeds are flooded with pictures of food posted by our friends. Food porn, if you will. It’s not just about tasting good anymore, food has to look good as well. How else did gimmicks like rainbow toast become so popular, right? (I mean, it’s just cheese and bread.)

Cosmetic Filtering

This obsession with beauty and perfection has led to the phenomenon known as cosmetic filtering. In simple terms, cosmetic filtering is the process of selecting and discarding foods that are ‘ugly’ or ‘imperfect’ according to conventional standards, despite the fact that they are totally edible.

The impact? More than 790,000 tonnes of food wastage occurred in 2015. To put things into perspective, that’s equivalent to every Singaporean throwing two bowls of rice away every day. Not all of this can be attributed to cosmetic filtering, but studies estimate that a whopping 46% of wastage occurs during the process of farm to table.

Have you been guilty of such filtering too? When you shop for groceries, do you find yourself picking and choosing the produce that looks better? You won’t be the only one, for surveys have shown that 68.1% of respondents actually refused to buy ugly food. Ugly food here only encompasses cosmetic imperfections like discolouration, slight bruising, and misshapen produce; all of the above are perfectly edible and just as nutritious as the food we deem to be ‘better’.

Source: Food Unfiltered

Let’s Not Judge Food By Its Appearance

We can’t live a zero waste lifestyle while still encouraging such wasteful behaviour. With the knowledge you now have, why not tweak your mindset a little? Ugly food is still food. We’re always advocating for people to look beyond appearances, why not apply the same courtesy to food?

Local movements and campaigns like Food Unfiltered SG, Ugly Food, and SG Food Rescue all have activities that help advocate for the reduction of food waste by accepting ugly food as a part of our lives. In fact, SG Food Rescue does regular veggie rescues where they head down to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre to obtain some of these fresh produce that do not meet market standards and redistribute them to soup kitchens and charity organization.

Free distribution of food collected by SG Food Rescue at an event. Source: Nuria Ling, TODAY

Support the organization above by checking out their pages and participating in their activities. On your own part, make a difference as well when you shop for your groceries. Don’t be that person that stands in front of the produce tray picking up and examining each one just to find the “prettiest” produce. As long as they’re not rotting or spoilt, all of them are just as nutritious and tasty!

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