Americans waste almost 40% of the food produced here, mostly after it gets into the hands of consumers. A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council shows how much food is lost in various parts of the food distribution chain:

Dana Gunders, a scientist at the NRDC who wrote the report, comes up with two basic reasons why Americans waste so much food (the equivalent of $165 billion each year): 

The first is that food represents a small portion of many Americans’ budgets, making the financial cost of wasting food too low to outweigh the convenience of it. Second, there is the plain economic truth that the more food consumers waste, the more those in the food industry are able to sell.

Basically, says Gunders, food doesn’t feel like a scarce resource in the US, so we don’t think too hard about wasting it.

But the report also makes the point that it’s not all just consumers throwing food out. If you look at the production losses, fruits and vegetables are especially vulnerable to waste in the supply chain. It’s partially because so much is lost because of weather-related and economic threats. For example, we lose food when the temperature isn’t right on a refrigerated truck, or when products have to be cut and trimmed to look just right.

But mostly we lose food because we throw it out.

The full report can be found here.