Food waste and losses in primary production: qualitative insights from horticulture

C Beausang*, C Hall, L Toma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)
738 Downloads (Pure)


Food waste is recognised as being one of the major global challenges in achieving a sustainable future. Currently very little is known about how much food is wasted in primary production. This study uses a qualitative approach to examine farmers’ views on food waste and losses occurring on soft fruit and vegetable farms. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 fruit and vegetable farmers in Scotland to gain information about 1) farmers’ attitudes to food waste, 2) how much food waste is generated on farms, 3) what are the causes of food waste, 4) what happens to the waste, and 5) what strategies can be used to reduce food waste on farms and add value to how waste is used. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse data from the interviews. This study revealed that farmers do not consider food waste to be an issue of primary concern and perceive food waste to be an intrinsic part of farming. Farmers do not routinely record waste and have difficulty in providing estimates for food waste and losses. Many of the causes of food waste identified in this study are due to factors further along the food supply chain, including cosmetic specifications by retailers, and a lack of processing facilities. Farmers expressed an interest in adding value to how food waste is used on their farms, but identified several barriers in relation to using food waste for energy production through anaerobic digestion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177 - 185
Number of pages9
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Early online date25 Aug 2017
Publication statusFirst published - 25 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note



  • Farmers
  • Food waste
  • Horticulture
  • Interviews
  • Primary production
  • Scotland


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