Why Ugly Fruit Is Actually A Good Thing

Photo: Courtesy of NRDC.
We’re all guilty of putting unattractive produce back on the shelf at the grocery store (sometimes, our focus on aesthetics gets the best of us). But, what about the items that get tossed out before they even make it to your local market?

Well, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, close to six billion pounds a year of fruit and veggies don’t make the cut due to cosmetic imperfections. Oakland start-up Imperfect is hoping to change the notion of "ugly" produce being a bad thing, and to cut down on waste in the process.

The Bay Area company sources from farmers directly and then delivers a box of seasonal, slightly deformed fruits and veggies to subscribers in Berkeley and Oakland. This not only saves waste but also allows users to save money in the long run, since the ugly fruit is typically a lot cheaper than the top-notch items. The best part? The product still tastes the same.

"We've been so conditioned by society to expect perfection in everything that we can't look beyond appearance to believe something can taste good even if it looks different," co-founder Ben Chesler tells us. "Plus, most of the time, it is actually fresher than traditional produce."

Chesler and his Imperfect partner, Ben Simon, were running the Food Recovery Network — a start-up dedicated to helping American colleges fight hunger by recovering excess food from campuses — when the inspiration hit them. "We started looking for how to have the most impact in reducing food waste," Chesler explains. "We talked with experts in the field, and they all told us, 'on farms.'  So, we started looking on farms and found the problem of produce being rejected for really silly reasons — wrong shape, wrong color, a little too big or small."

After the service launches in the Bay Area in the summer, we're hoping it expands to other cities and helps us all embrace the ugliness of food. Hey, no one's perfect.

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