An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.



Reducing food waste is one of the most effective ways to improve food security and diminish the food system's carbon footprint. Approximately 20% of discarded food is wasted for cosmetic reasons, on account of being too misshapen, missized, or blemished to sell. The overarching goal of this project is to investigate opportunities for imperfect foods to enter the market and reduce food waste. We focus on the entire value chain of imperfect foods, covering producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers. To accomplish this goal, we formulate the following supporting objectives.In Objective 1, we document the status quo by summarizing current management practices relevant to the supply of imperfect produce. We do this using in-depth interviews with key value chain actors. The online and in-person in-depth interviews with the value chain actors will occur in months 10-15 of the project. The major outputs of this activity are insights and feedback from the value chain on opportunities, challenges, and best practices for offering imperfect foods, as well as main (and potential) channels to source and sell imperfect foods. The information gained from the in-depth interviews will allow us to paint a holistic picture of the current state of imperfect foods, as well as expected future directions.In Objective 2, we use an industry survey to identify factors that impact retailers' decisions to sell imperfect foods. We will conduct a national online survey of about 400 stakeholders in the produce industry in months 19-24. The questions in the industry survey will span across five major sections: (1) current industry practices and barriers for selling imperfect foods; (2) potential future industry practices for selling imperfect foods; (3) pros and cons associated with bringing imperfect foods to market; (4) perceptions of consumer preferences for imperfect foods; and (5) producer characteristics. Major outputs from this activity are data on current practices, adoption likelihood for imperfect produce selling practices, and perceptions about consumer demand. In months 25-29, we will prepare and analyze the empirical data, prepare summary statistics, and conduct multivariate statistics. The major output(s) from this activity will be the industry report.In Objective 3, we use a consumer survey to evaluate consumers' willingness to pay for fresh and processed imperfect foods. We investigate how people's decisions are driven by information on the potential social benefits of imperfect produce (e.g., reduced food waste, increased farmer supply, and climate change mitigation). In months 12-20, we will conduct an online survey experiment with a sample of 1,600 adults from the U.S. This study will enable us to determine the value consumers place on imperfect foods, including both fresh and processed varieties, based on product appearance. Further, the study will yield insight into how information impacts consumers' values for imperfect produce. By combining the results from consumer choice modeling with information about people's socio-demographics, attitudes, experiences, and perceptions, we will be able to demonstrate how consumer demand for imperfect produce depends on multiple factors.In Objective 4, we fuse all findings to develop and deliver outreach materials for value chain participants. To disseminate project results to industry stakeholders and academic audiences, we will host theproject website that will serve as the repository for all project-related activities. We will draft a technical report and manuscript(s), develop targeted extension publications, host webinars, and participate in conferences to present research findings to industry, government, and academics. The varied background of our industry contacts will ensure that we develop targeted and accessible outputs for all audiences. The ultimate goal is to inform management practices and policy interventions that simultaneously increase the social acceptance of imperfect produce while aiding its production, in terms of improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Vecchi, M.
Start date
End date
Project number
Accession number