(NEW YORK) — Food delivery services will bring just about anything to your door these days: meal kits, fresh seafood and, of course, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, some services promise to bring you so-called “ugly produce.”
The companies are selling zucchini that will never make it to the store and cauliflower that might have been left in the field — all because they don’t hit a certain aesthetic standard. These services are also promising to help reduce food waste, something they say is good for the planet and for farmers.
Families such as the Taos from San Francisco and married couple Steve Magouirk and Megan Brown from Somerdale, New Jersey, helped ABC News’ Good Morning America try out the so-called “ugly produce” services.
Magouirk and Brown looked at two different services: Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest.
“When they say it’s misshapen or ugly produce, you really don’t know what they’re going to give you,” Magouirk said.
For Misfits Market, GMA ordered the Madness Subscription Box, which includes a mix of 14 different kinds of organic fruits and vegetables and costs $38.50.
From Hungry Harvest, GMA bought the most similar option — the Super Organic Harvest box, which includes 10 to 12 types of fruits and veggies for $50.
The Taos in California tried out a third service, Imperfect Produce, where GMA ordered the “Large Organic Box” and received 15 different types of organic fruits and veggies for $40.85.
All of these services deliver to different parts of the country, so check their websites to see if they are in your town.
When looking at the produce they received, Magouirk said, “Some were a little smaller than what you might see otherwise. Some were a little bigger, but it runs about the same quality as what you would see at a normal grocery store.”
ABC News’ Becky Worley pointed out that she thought they would receive more deformed produce, but it turned out most of the produce was rather pretty.
To do a quality comparison, GMA brought in Dr. Beth Mitcham of the University of California, Davis plant sciences department, and she looked at the Taos’ box from Imperfect Produce.
She found the nectarines from Imperfect Produce to be slightly smaller than the store-bought ones.
“So size is a big one for grading fruit and small fruit is really hard to sell because most buyers don’t want it. Now, sometimes, small fruit is going to taste just as good,” Mitcham said.
As for the limes GMA received in the box, the store-bought ones are greener than the Imperfect Produce ones, but Mitcham pointed out that doesn’t always matter.
“This is a great product for Imperfect Produce because they’re heavy and I can tell they have a reasonable amount of juice in them,” she said.
In a complete reversal of what our testers thought they would be getting, they found most of the so-called ugly produce was barely different from the store produce.
When asked if she’s surprised by the results, Mitcham said, “I think for the consumer it’s a good deal and, of course, it’s something you can feel good about buying.”
And, if you’re not up for the mystery of a random selection of fruits and veggies showing up on your doorstep, two of the brands have customizable boxes so you have some options on what you’re ordering. Misfits Market told GMA it is adding this option in the coming weeks.
But what about cost?
To compare apples to apples, GMA weighed all of the items and then went to the grocery store and tried to buy similar produce. Even with delivery built into the cost, all three ugly produce services were less expensive than the store.
Worley pointed out it’s all really close in price, quality, delivery and choice, while Mitcham added, “To me, it says this is something worth trying.”
Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.