Food Waste in America
It is estimated that 40% of the food that is purchased by restaurants ends up being discarded before reaching the guest. Obviously if this waste can be eliminated it would lead to higher profits and less product sent to a landfill as well as a lesser need for food production. Food production is a huge drain on the environment using both land and creating methane gas emissions.
11% of all global land is used for agricultural uses. Additionally it is estimated that 17% of all methane gas produced comes from livestock farming. If society can reduce food waste we can cut farming, freeing up the land and creating fewer emissions. If 40% of the waste was cut this would make a great change in the earth’s environment. These statements do not even include the ability to minimize landfill acreage as well as the methane gas produce from landfills.
This phenomenon occurs in homes as well as food service restaurants. The average American wastes/discards 23 pounds of food per person every month. As Americans are becoming more aware of this we are taking small steps to try to reduce these numbers. One of the responses that Americans are doing much better at is composting. Another response that is just getting started is being done with the help of supermarkets. Many supermarkets are now looking into the marketing and selling of ugly fruit. Ugly fruit is the term used for fruit that does not look as nice as the produce we are used to seeing in a supermarket. Ugly fruit, as an example, would not be sold in the past; it would have been sent to a landfill for disposal, but now supermarkets are trying to market it. It is estimated that 20% of all produce grown is discarded due to its irregular size, shape, color or appearance. Another great source for buying imperfect fruit is at a farmers market.
There are many tools that can be used to help avoid food waste. One practice that is used in most restaurants is called FIFO. This stands for First In First Out. This is a good inventory practice to avoid food from spoiling. Make sure to use the oldest product first. Another tool is to take inventory of your stock and plan a meal around what you need to use up. Many restaurants will use this method for staff meals or for specials. Another tool to avoid food waste is to think about how much you peel or trim foods. If you do not peel the potato, as an example, you will not create that waste. Many restaurants use peelings or byproducts to flavor soups, stocks or sauces.
You should also make sure that your storage techniques are proper with tightly wrapping or sealing foods and making sure that storage temperatures are ideal, in the refrigerator as well as the freezer. People, both in the industry and lay people, can check dates on canned products and donate them to shelters or needy people before the expiration dates. Another easy trick to preserve food is to pickle products that might be going bad. This can extend shelf life by a month or more. One guideline the government can change is to create common terminology for the use by/sell buy/best buy dates marked on food packaging. Milk has a sell by date on it but the industry standard says you should have at least 10 days to use it after that date. This rule is not the same in a commercial kitchen in most jurisdictions.
Las Vegas has been very proactive in avoiding sending food to the landfill. Since 1963 RC Farms has been hauling excess food from many of the city’s casinos to its farm in North Las Vegas and turning it into slop for their 2,500 hogs. Recently the farm has sold its current location and is moving its operations further north to the Apex industrial zone. This new facility will open with 5,000 pigs, but have the ability to grow to up to 25,000 pigs. This will be a big help in keeping food out of the landfill. From one hotel alone on the Strip in one year RC Farms hauled 7 million pounds of food scraps to feed the pigs. Hopefully with the demand increased more hotel properties will join the others in donating the food leftovers to feed these pigs. The program of collecting the scraps started with 4 hotels and currently is implemented in 22 properties in Southern Nevada.