Data help identify strategic interventions, but until recently few national studies examining food waste had been undertaken in Canada. In the late 2000s, Statistics Canada (2009), concluded that about 38%, or 183 kg per person, of the solid food available for retail sale was wasted in 2007. Food losses from retail to household amounted to about 6 million tonnes of food waste (Statistics Canada, 2009:39). The number of calories available per person in 2007 was 3,384 kilocalories; however, only 71% of the calories purchased were consumed, leaving 29% of the calories produced to go to waste (Statistics Canada, 2009:40). Gooch et al. (2010) concluded that approximately 40% of food produced in Canada was not consumed, representing a lost value of $27 billion annually, later revised to $31 billion in their follow up study (Gooch and Felfel, 2014). With around $48.7 billion in sales of agricultural products in 2009, this meant that 55% of food is wasted from farm to fork, as measured against sales (Gooch et al., 2010:16).
Working from the Gooch et al. (2010) report, Abdulla et al. (2013) identified waste as a percentage of food available for consumption across a 49-year period for different food categories (see Table 1). This included both edible and inedible waste, but was a conservative estimate because it is impossible to account for all farm, distribution and processing waste.
Table 1: Average % food waste of available food for consumption, 1961 to 2009 (adapted from Abdulla et al., 2013).
|Food category||% food waste of available
food for consumption
|Total fresh fruit||46.19|
|Total fresh vegetable||49.91|
|Total dairy products||27.57|
|Red meat, boneless weight||39.73|
|Poultry, boneless weight||42.74|
|Total fish (1988 to 2009)||31.21|
|Total oil and fats||29.18|
|Total cereal products||30.00|
|Total pulses and nuts||15.40|
|Total sugars and syrups||28.80|
|Total waste per person per year||44.11|
From their analysis, 44% of food available for consumption is wasted / person / year, with fruits, vegetables and poultry the most wasted and pulses and nuts the least.
Gooch et al. (2019) have used more complete data sets to revise their original estimates, though these have yet to be applied to an updated Table 1. They now conclude that 58% of all food, or 35.5 M M tonnes, is wasted across food supply chains, and that 32% of that waste is avoidable. As we discuss later, the avoidable component is a serious underestimate because it assumes the status quo in many production, manufacturing, distribution and consumption practices and is analyzed through the lens of human food recovery, a limited way of examining what is avoidable.
A few regional studies have been undertaken. For example, Parizeau, von Massow, and Martin (2015) found 20% higher levels in a community in Guelph, Ontario than the Statistics Canada study, though the reasons for the higher results are not obvious. Peel Region in Ontario found, in recent curbside audits, that 40% of household food waste was avoidable, with 53% coming from leftovers that could have been eaten, and 47% from untouched food (Peel Region, 2016). A 2014 Metro Vancouver study found that the typical resident purchases too much food and a significant amount goes bad before it can be consumed. Of the avoidable and edible portions, Metro Vancouver wastes 30,000 eggs, 70,000 cups of milk, and 80,000 potatoes every day (Metro Vancouver, n.d.). Many local firms, institutions and facilities have also carried out food waste audits (not reported on here).
It is clear, from all the studies, that the levels of food waste in Canada are shockingly high. There is also some evidence current programming and recent significant food inflation are not reducing household food waste (Canadian Grocer, 2022). This speaks to the need for a more systemic approach to reducing food waste rather than focusing on consumers as most current initiatives do.
 Note that the 2014 update did not substantially change percentages.