Your ‘meal kit’ delivery might come with a metric tonne of cardboard, but it could be better for the environment in the long run.
Above: Embracing ugly food to help the environment.
Delivery meal kits have traditionally gotten a bad environmental wrap for the amount of packaging lurking in their freezer bag depths.
But according to a study by the University of Michigan, they could be ‘greener’ than your weekly grocery shop.
When every step of the process is considered - all the way from farm to landfill - researchers found that average greenhouse gas emissions were one-third lower for meal kit dinners than the grocery store-bought meals.
Essentially, meal kit's streamlined supply chains and pre-portioned ingredients significantly lower food wastage.
Scientists sourced and prepared five pairs of identical meals. One used ingredients from a supermarket and the other used meal delivery kits.
The study revealed how many carbon dioxide equivalent emissions there was per meal.
The average emissions were calculated to be 6.1 kg CO2e/meal for a meal kit and 8.1 kg CO2e/meal for a grocery store meal.
Which means the grocery-based dishes produced 2kg of CO2 per meal more than meal kit, an increase of 33%.
While meal kits can contain a lot of packaging, senior author of the study Shelie Miller says it’s food wastage that is far more damaging to the environment.
That extra chicken breast bought from the grocery store that gets freezer-burned and finally gets thrown out is much worse, because of all the energy and materials that had to go into producing that chicken breast in the first place.
The study also found out that by skipping the Coles run, consumers dodge grocery store faux-pas like overstocking food that gets thrown out and disposing of ill-shapen produce.
With the meal kit business being worth an estimated $5 billion in the US, Miller sees this as an opportunity for food systems to improve worldwide.
"In order to minimise overall impacts of the food system, there is a need to continue to reduce food loss and waste,” she said.
“While also creating advances in transportation logistics and packaging to reduce last-mile emissions and material use."