Side flows and edible food waste in primary production - case Finland

Hanna Hartikainen, MTT
Marja Pinolehto, MTT
Raija Räikkönen, MTT

According to rough estimates by Gustavsson et al. (2013) food losses in primary production in Europe vary between products from few per cents up to 20%. However, agricultural studies have mainly focused on resource efficiency, and thus there is lack of information on edible food waste in primary production which is important information for studying the most optimal ways to reduce food waste in the food chain.

Results of a Finnish food waste study Foodspill 1 showed that the total amount of edible food that is wasted by households, restaurants, industry and retail is between 335–460 million kg. Thus, 10-15% of food produced is wasted in Finland (Katajajuuri et al. 2014). Primary production was excluded from the study but included in the following study, Foodspill 2, where the objective was to supplement the edible food waste figures.

To approach the objective seven different products were studied based on the production volumes and/or different characteristics. The products were ice berg salad, strawberry, wheat, potato, beef, pork and milk, representing 60% of Finnish food production. The study method for plant-based production was an internet survey questionnaire, and the used methods for animal-based production were statistical data and interviews. Side flow was defined as the share of food production that is not going for human consumption although is produced for human consumption. Side flow was divided into side products and waste – where both could include edible food waste.

The representativeness of the sample of survey questionnaire was rather good, the sample varied between 8 to 29% for different products. The respondents evaluated the proportion of their production that is used directly for food production and proportion that ends up as waste or as different side products, such as, feed or bioenergy. Survey results evidence that 14-16% of production ends to side products or waste.

The farmers were also asked to give the main reasons for why certain share of the production is not qualified for food production and end up as side products and waste. This was done by asking the main reasons and further dividing the reasons into four classes: 1st edible food waste (e.g. size of the product), 2nd contains partly edible food waste, 3rd potentially edible food waste, and 4th waste is hard to avoid due to natural causes e.g. due to weather conditions. The amounts of edible food waste (1st class) of total production varied between 1-7 % between products.

The chosen system boundaries, definitions, used study methods and results will be presented in the full paper. Additionally, food waste amounts will be presented using different indicators, such as, mass, economic value and carbon footprint.


Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., Emanuelsson, A. (2013), The methodology of the FAO study: “Global Food Losses and Food Waste – extent, causes and prevention” – FAO, 2011. SIK report No. 857.

Katajajuuri, J.-M., Silvennoinen, K., Hartikainen, H., Heikkilä, L., Reinikainen, A. 2014. Food waste in the Finnish food chain. Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 17 January 2014