The world's top 10 countries for sustainable food

france market
CC BY 2.0 Anna & Michal / Flickr

Considering food waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges, the 2018 rankings have some surprises in store.

So I'll just cut to the chase here. France is the most sustainable county in the world when it comes to food. Thanks to the country's ardent fighting of food waste, an acceptance and adherence of healthy lifestyles, and their approach to sustainable agriculture, they've nabbed the crown for this year's Food Sustainability Index ... an accolade that they won last year as well.

Scores were calculated for 67 countries and factored in three categories: Food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges. France scores especially high points for their aggressive approach to food waste. Among a broad set of policies, they are, for example, the first country in the world to penalize supermarkets that throw away products that are still edible. Viva la France!

Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Canada, Finland and Japan filled up the rest of the top five spots, and the rest played out as you can see below:

1. France
2. Netherlands
3. Canada
4. Finland
5. Japan
6/7. Denmark (tie)
6/7. Czech Republic (tie)
8. Sweden
9. Austria
10. Hungary

So what was surprising here? Well, maybe not so surprising, but we really should expect better: The United States was number 26, right between Uganda (25) and Ethiopia (27).

The U.S. took a big hit thanks to its love of a terrible diet, one that results in an overweight population that doesn't move around much and that lives on sugar, meat, saturated fat and salt. As well as for its unsustainable agricultural practices. From the report:

The low US ranking for sustainable agriculture reflects a number of factors, including a high level of greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, a low proportion of land set aside for organic farming (less than 1% of the total) and a relatively large amount of land (around 22%) devoted to biofuel production and animal feed.

The large demand for animal feed in the US is, in turn, closely linked to the dietary preferences of its citizens. At 225.4 g per day, average per-head consumption levels of meat in the US are among the highest in the world.

Food waste is also a big issue. In the U.S., food waste comes in at an annual 209.4 pounds (95.1 kilograms) per person; in France, it's 148.1 pounds (67.2 kilograms). All together, humans waste a third of all the food produced each year – which adds up to a loss of some $1 trillion.

Not only is this ethically problematic in a world where many don't have enough to eat, but it's destructive for the environment as well.

"France has been in the vanguard of policies and measures to reduce such losses," says Martin Koehring, author of the index, which is created in collaboration between the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation.

France is also pressing ahead with an agroecology policy, notes Thin Lei Win for the World Economic Forum, which its agriculture ministry says "aims to shift agriculture towards the objective of combining economic, environmental and social performance." By 2025, most French farmers are expected to sign on to a set of sustainable practices which include crop rotation and decreasing their dependence on chemical fertilizers.

Meanwhile, we'll just be here in The States eating hamburgers, letting food rot, and dousing the earth with pesticides! Maybe next year we can drop down a few positions in the ranking.

In the meantime, a word to the wise: Be like France.

The world's top 10 countries for sustainable food
Considering food waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges, the 2018 rankings have some surprises in store.

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