With staggering amounts of food waste in America entering landfills, new methods for recycling this food waste are continually arising and developing. The process of recycling food waste into use for animal feed is one with little research or real world implementations, but has promising potential as a main diversion source of food waste. While there is much more to be discovered and explored in this process of conversion, some success stories do stand as an example on how to effectively transform the food scraps from grocery stores, restaurants, and households to the nutritious animal feed on farms. As members of FEED, a food equity consulting club at Berkeley, we took a look a these programs in the Bay Area and around the country to examine what tactics should be used as a model for similar future programs.
Local efforts to convert this food waste to animal feed consist of mostly small, informal, and intermittent transitions. We were able to contact small bay area animal farms such as Leland St. Farms, to examine how they are accepting recycled scraps. This small scale-pig farm sources 90% of their pig feed from a local produce market called Andy’s, collected in a large bin and transported to the farm via tractor. The farmers that their grain purchases are minimal and their pigs are extremely healthy due to the minimal effort taken to collecting this otherwise wasted food. Devil’s Gulch Ranch, a similarly small pig farm in Marin, receives unused food from Marin Food Bank, grain from Almanac Brewery and Magnolia Brewery, and cheese from Marin Cheese Farm. All donations are left in large bins at these locations and workers drive trucks to pick them up about every other week. The farmers taking advantage of freely available recyclable food waste boast its benefits of lower costs and even better animal health. However, due to a lack of existing organization, they have only been able to achieve this through self-initiative and funding for sourcing and retrieving this food.
In looking for more established and formal food waste recycling methods, we found FoodShift. This Alameda sourced organization began a program to pick up food waste from a partnered grocery store Andronico’s and delivers to St Vincent de Paul’s to feed the hungry. Food Shift reported that “In the first three months of the program, over 44,000 lbs of food was collected, including melons, apples, oranges, lettuce, granola bars and more. Andronico’s determined that the quantity of waste in their dumpsters had declined so dramatically that the store could reduce their number of garbage and compost pick ups to three days per week, which can save them almost $27,000 each year”. While this food was not take to farms, the success of Food Shift is a strong representation of the sustainability and cost efficiency of programs that divert food waste from grocery stores.
We then looked at another food waste success, Rutgers University, to see how the school converts its own cafeteria’s food waste into animal feed. Located in New Jersey, Rutgers University has partnered its dining halls with a local farm called Pinter Farms. After each meal, Rutgers staff takes the scraps from the food into a trough in the kitchen. This trough moves both this food and also used napkins into a pulper which grinds all of the waste together and removes the excess water from the mix. This process reduces the volume of the waste, which is then taken to barrels to be taken to Pinter. Pinter Farms is closeby, less than 15 miles away from the university, and this process of recycling the university’s food waste and using it as animal feed at Rutgers has been going on for over 50 years. Every day, representatives from this farm come to Rutgers’ campus and collect around one ton of food scraps from the university’s four dining halls, feeding it to the farm’s hogs and cattle. This cuts the price of sending these food scraps to the landfill by more than one half, so not only does less food get wasted, but the university also saves a significant amount of money through this partnership.
We found all of this research to be quite useful in helping Outside2Inside form a solid plan for the conversion of food waste to animal feed. The bottom line is that there are indeed ways that we can recycle the food that we eat rather than letting it waste away, and established organizations are already implementing programs to do so. It is up to us to spread this information and start up more and more of these programs to continue to reduce food waste in an effective and efficient way by feeding it to farm animals.
– Ava and Maddie
UC Berkeley – FEED Consultants