According to the National Resource Defense Council (article from 2012), America wastes up to 40% of the food it produces. This number comes from all points from farm to table. It’s claimed that less than half of domestic beef is consumed by humans with the waste being dumped or fed back to the cows. I cannot say that hunters do not contribute to this as well. I admit that there have been times I’ve had business lunches for multiple days in a row and then ended up having to throw out leftovers at the end of the week. Also, I cannot (or rather will not) take home and reheat egg or fish leftovers if the portion size provided at a restaurant is too big (at home I simply only make what I will eat).
However, hunters are far more likely to consume more parts of an animal and appreciate the meat, than non-hunting omnivores. We routinely eat organs, tongue, jowls, neck and other parts of an animal -- including caul fat. These all go into our freezer, or at the very least, are made into sausage. The parts of an animal used to make hot dogs that grosses everyone out? Yeah, we eat those happily. The idea that hunters kill animals, cut off their heads for the antlers and leave the body to rot is not only preposterous, it’s illegal. It’s called wanton waste and it’s against the law in all 50 states.
Overall, I think this tendency toward food waste, especially meat waste, occurs more and more because as time goes on, we become more and more disconnected from the Earth. All of us like to talk about how much we love the planet and how much we want to save it (or there are those who don’t want to open their eyes and realize we’re negatively impacting our planet). However, it’s not from the perspective of saving ourselves, it’s from the perspective of we’re above it all and we feel better about ourselves if we’re doing something. We feel good about ourselves because we eat organic, drive a Prius or we “rescued” a dog from the pound, and yet we waste food or buy a new house on the edge of town that used to be prime deer habitat, etc. We view ourselves as being separate from nature and above it all because we’re the most evolved.
I’m a hypocrite, it’s damn near impossible to investigate every decision we make, nor are ideologues fun to be around. I’m not advocating for everyone to go without their HVAC or switch from automobiles to bicycles, but I am asking everyone to spend a little time thinking about how you waste resources. Go for a hike and don’t look at your phone. Halfway in, sit down, drink some water and listen. After about ten minutes you’ll hear a noise, you’ll think a moose or a bear is headed your way. You’ll realize it’s just a squirrel. There’s so much noise in our lives that once you tune it out, you’ll realize how much you’re missing every day. Once you spend time on their turf and on their terms, you develop a greater appreciation and respect for the animal and its habitat. You don’t have to anthropomorphize an animal in order to love it, but you do need to understand what it is in its own habitat – and zoos are not an animal’s native habitat.
Personally, I’m going to make some adjustments. If the menu at the restaurant doesn’t say how many eggs are in the dish, I’m going to ask. If I think I might get busy, I’m going to throw the leftovers in the freezer until I can get to them. Much like we placed laws on ourselves to end market hunting over 100 years ago for the betterment of wildlife, it’s time we reigned in our own behavior again.
Maybe there aren’t mountains of buffalo heads like there were in the 1870s, but there are mountains of food waste out there, we’re just not seeing it.