Household Food Waste and Inefficiencies in Food Production

67 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2020

See all articles by Travis Smith

Travis Smith

University of Georgia

Craig E. Landry

UGA Ag & Applied Economics

Date Written: June 30, 2020


This paper investigates household food waste in the context of inefficient food production. Food waste is typically defined as the proportion of edible food that goes unconsumed, whereas inefficiency is measured by a household's inability to reach some technically efficient production frontier. Because food waste can be avoided through improved efficiency, we focus on the determinants of inefficiency using unique household- level data on food stock usage and food consumption. We simultaneously estimate the productivity of input usage and the corresponding household-specfic inefficiencies. Inefficiencies are further specified to be a function of observable characteristics. For the general population, we find inefficiencies to be associated with race, age, education, household size, joint preparation of meals, distance traveled to the food store, and food shopping frequency. A latent class model clearly distinguishes two groups of households: a relatively more efficient group (about 16% of the population) and a relatively inefficient group (the remaining 84%). The inefficient group is driving most of the aforementioned results for the general population, and we find relatively little explanatory power of covariates for the inefficient group. Finally, while we find observed food waste to be highly correlated with input-oriented inefficiencies, such that using either outcome leads to similar policy recommendations, their equivalence is dependent upon the estimated reference technology and underlying assumptions.

Keywords: food waste, household production, stochastic frontier

JEL Classification: D12, D13, Q18

Suggested Citation

Smith, Travis and Landry, Craig, Household Food Waste and Inefficiencies in Food Production (June 30, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Travis Smith

University of Georgia ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-7509
United States

Craig Landry (Contact Author)

UGA Ag & Applied Economics ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-7509
United States

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