Poultry, meat supply chain named major source of food waste

About a fifth of all poultry and meat products become food waste between farm to fork.

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Hand Putting Lid On Garbage Can Full Of Waste Food
Hand Putting Lid On Garbage Can Full Of Waste Food
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About a fifth of all poultry and meat products become food waste between farm to fork, Patrick O’Reilly, Northeast Food & Beverage Services Leader, Marcum LLP, said during How the Food Industry is Tackling Food Waste.

The total amount of food waste created annually per U.S. household is 70 million tons, approximately 250 pounds per person. This waste is the single largest contributor to landfills today. Nearly half of food waste is generated in homes, 24% from grocery stores, 16% from farmers and distributors, 15% from restaurants and only 2% from manufacturing.

Food waste can cause increases in energy and water usage, soil erosion, greenhouse gases, environmental and health concerns and excess use of natural resources such as packaging and shipping.

“According to the National Resources Defense Council, about 40% of the food in the U.S. is never eaten, which is a significant increase over the last generation. One may think that this problem is isolated only to the U.S. and other affluent nations, but it is a global issue,” O’Reilly explained.

“This all leads to an incredible amount of food waste, more than 1.3 billion tons each year globally.”

Fruits and vegetables are the largest contributors to food waste, with 45% ending up in landfills. Next on the list is fish and seafood, cereal grains and dairy products.

Twenty percent of all meat and poultry become food waste, O’Reilly noted. The amount of water required for meat production is higher than that necessary for other forms of meat production. Processing is another aspect that generates significant waste, from unused byproducts to manure.

Countering food waste

There are several new technologies and approaches that can help the poultry industry counter waste throughout the supply chain.

Blockchain technology – which can trace the lifecycle of a food from farm to fork – has a lot of potential to help prevent waste.

“It’s a fledgling technology,” O’Reilly said. “But I think the more data you can have, the better you will be, because you can make smarter decisions.”

Another approach looks for new ways use byproducts. For example, fried chicken skins made by consumer-packaged goods company Chick N’ Skin repurpose a part of the bird normally discarded during processing into a low-carb snack for consumers.

Smart labels could help consumers feel more confident about the freshness of the poultry and meat products they purchase. The technology enables real-time quality monitoring of the food and can reduce food waste by minimizing the amount of spoiled product.

Anaerobic digestion can sustainably convert food waste or manure into energy. The process uses microorganisms to break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, transforming organic waste into renewable natural gas and a liquid containing nutrients that can be used as a fertilizer for crops.

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