While agricultural producers are searching for ways to feed a growing world population, a key number to consider is the amount of food that goes to waste, 4.1 billion pounds by food manufacturers according to one study.

Food industry data reveals billions of pounds of food wasted The study from the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association is the first comprehensive assessment of food waste data provided by the food industry.

A review of 2011 numbers shows companies disposed of 4.1 billion pounds of food, about 20 pounds of food per person each month for a whole year. The total is divided among the manufacturing sector (2.4 billion pounds wasted) and retail and wholesale sectors (1.7 pounds wasted). Those numbers don’t account for the amount of food thrown out by consumers.

Acknowledging the food waste, Phil Lempert, founder of Food Nutrition & Science and CEO of The Lempert Report says everyone plays a role in reducing the waste.

"Everyone in the food chain from growers and manufacturers to retailers and consumers have to figure out how to decrease the waste and get these staggering numbers down."

The release notes the 4.1 billion pound total may be a bit misleading, of the food waste measured, 73 percent was converted to animal feed and another 20 percent was used as fertilizer.