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$282 million of turkey trashed during U.S. Thanksgiving

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As the United States gives thanks during its annual Thanksgiving celebration later this week, it will also toss millions of dollars in uneaten turkey into the trash.

In addition to the $282 million worth of turkey going into the trash, resources necessary for the production of the birds will also be wasted, including 105 billion gallons of water (that's enough to supply New York City ... for 100 days) and greenhouse gas emission equivalent of 800,000 car trips from one end of the U.S. to the other, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Don't expect a decrease in turkey waste at future Thanksgivings. It would take a major cultural shift for Americans to change their holiday eating habits, which, as Dana Gunders points out, is quite ironic:

We feast to celebrate that our ancestors had enough food to survive their first winter, acknowledging that once upon a time food was something to be grateful for.  Then the next day, we throw half of it away.

Plus, there's hardly an incentive for the turkey industry to produce smaller turkeys. Quite the opposite. It's much more efficient to produce fewer, larger turkeys. And that's exactly what the industry is doing. Last year, 45 million fewer turkeys were produced than in 1995. But in the past decade the size of the turkey is getting bigger, meaning larger turkeys at meals and more opportunity for waste.

But food waste isn't just a problem at Thanksgiving. In fact, the U.S. has a $165 billion food waste problem.

This Thanksgiving, Be More Grateful than Wasteful [NRDC Switchboard]

Photo: Flickr/Pink Sherbet Photography

— By on November 19, 2012, 6:19 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure