Economics of household food waste

Jayson L. Lusk, Brenna Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Food waste has drawn increasing public attention, and the high levels of estimated waste are largely considered to be a failure of our current food system. Recently, economists have begun to weigh in, showing food waste can emerge as the result of a complex equilibrium affected by consumers’ preferences for convenience; expectations about future food prices and availability; food safety concerns; producers’ costs of holding inventory, transportation, and storage; government regulation; and technology. If food waste is a form of inefficiency, there are either strong economic motivations to reduce waste, or unmeasured costs or preferences affecting waste decisions. If consumers have behavioral biases, suffer from information asymmetries, or do not pay the full cost of their waste, there may be a role for government intervention to reduce waste, but most empirical models in the literature have not articulated or quantified the extent of the deadweight loss from the market failures in relation to food waste. In some cases, waste reduction efforts could harm producers if overall demand for food is reduced or harm consumers if overconsumption is encouraged, quality or safety degrades, or supply disruptions occur. Technological innovations, which lower the cost of storage or extend shelf life have the potential to improve both consumer and producer welfare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-386
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • efficiency
  • food waste
  • household production model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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