Is Free Bread In Restaurants An "Environmental Nightmare"?

breadbasket photo

Image credit Skånska Matupplevelser, Creative Commons

I have always wondered why restaurants give out free bread, it just fills up the customer so that they can order less, and a lot of it gets wasted. In fact, Bruce McAdams, an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, calculates that there is a significant carbon cost as well.
According to the Globe and Mail, responsible for the over-the-top headline The free bread basket: an environmental nightmare,

"Restaurants shouldn't just automatically bring a bread basket to your table," Prof. McAdams says. "You're being wasteful, not only environmentally, but also economically." In his paper, he points out that previous research determined that the carbon footprint of bread ranges from 977 grams to 1,244 grams of carbon dioxide per 800-gram loaf. That is, the carbon emissions outweigh the actual bread, "proving an unsustainable process."

waste restaurants iamge

From report: Bread waste in different kinds of facilities

The Globe article concentrates on the carbon footprint, but in reading the actual report, "Bread: A Business Case for Change in Foodservice," (PDF Here) there are other issues as well. He tells the University of Guelph Newsletter:

Food is being taken for granted due to its seemingly endless supply and low cost, says McAdams. But as crops fail and food prices increase, restaurants are becoming more aware of unnecessary waste. He says food prices, which have been artificially deflated by subsidies, are beginning to reflect the true cost of putting food on the table. Food prices are also driven by supply and demand. The growth of the middle class in China and India has led to an increased demand for food, he says. Fuel prices also play a role, affecting the cost of production and transportation from the farm to the grocery store.

The waste of bread is just the most visible example of food waste in restaurants, but certainly a good place to start. More in the Globe and Mail.
More on food waste:
The Impact of Food Waste on Climate Change (And Just About Everything Else)
Why Massive Food Waste is Cause for Global Concern
Food Waste Revealed: From Farm to Store to Kitchen (Photos)