Every single person in the UK is discarding the equivalent of more than a whole chicken a year, which contributes as much greenhouse gas emissions as 290,000 cars a year, according to anti-waste charity Wrap.
Up to 86 million chickens are thrown away each year – either as whole birds or parts of poultry – even though it is the nation’s favourite meat.
Poultry was placed 10th in the food items discarded in the UK behind staples such as bread and potatoes.
Latest estimates suggest that unwanted food produces more than 21m tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.
The analysis, undertaken by Wrap and released at the start of the UN climate change talks in Paris, found that waste chicken contributes about 690,000t of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a year.
This takes into account the costs of rearing, feeding and transporting the live birds, along with the releases of gases if they are placed in landfill.
Liz Goodwin, Wrap chief executive, said there was a real connection between analysis of people’s habits and the ongoing negotiations taking place in France.
Ms Goodwin said she was shocked at the amount of food, including poultry, being wasted.
“Not only is it costing the average family with children £60 a month, but of the 4.2m tonnes of food that could have been eaten, a lot of it ends up in landfill where it basically just rots and gives off greenhouse gas emissions.”
The BBC reported this week that tests carried out at Sheffield Hallam University found that fresh chicken produced a variety of gases during decomposition.
Dr Jillian Newton, of the University’s Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, calculated that a 1.2kg chicken produced 31.2 litres of biogas – which contained 79.8g of methane and carbon dioxide.
The Environment Agency and the University of Manchester are currently running an experimental drone, fitted with sensors, that monitors gases rising from the UK’s 200 landfill sites.
Methane is produced from decomposing food and there are 830,000t of methane from the waste sector.
Methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.