For shoppers in Finland, the answer to “Where’s the beef?” is now one of the country’s hundreds of S-market stores at 9 p.m. local time. As part of the grocer’s two-year campaign to reduce food waste, S-market is promoting “happy hours,” during which it slashes prices on meat, poultry and seafood that is approaching its expiration date, the New York Times reports.
Recent reports find that the U.S. wastes as much as 40% of the food it produces every year, translating to an economic loss of $218 billion each year. Much of this waste is driven by confusion with sell-by dates. Perhaps America’s meat and seafood counters should take a cue from their Finnish counterparts.
S-market regularly reduces its prices on about-to-expire meat and seafood by 30%. Three hours before a product’s midnight expiration, the grocer further reduces prices to 60% off.
“I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” Kasimir Karkkainen, 27, told The New York Times, as he grabbed a container of pork mini-ribs and 2 pounds of shrink-wrapped pork tenderloin from an S-market meat section in Helsinki.
It’s a win-win-win for the grocer, the consumer and the planet. As Elizabeth Balkan, director of food waste for the Natural Resources Defense Council, recently told PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses behind China and the U.S.
However, combating food waste may be a tougher sell in the U.S. “Culture plays a huge role in it and is really part of the equation in the U.S. in a fundamental way,” Balkan told PBS. “We like abundance, and food is very cheap in this country, so the cost to businesses of wasting food is not so outsized when compared to either the consumer expectation or the business’s expectation of what the consumer expects to see when they walk into a hotel buffet or they walk into a supermarket aisle.”
According to The New York Times, 9 of the 10 U.S. supermarket chains that were assessed by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity last year were given a C grade or lower on food-waste issues. “Only Walmart did better, largely for its efforts to standardize date labels and to educate staffers and customers,” writes the Times.