As we covered in the first article of this series, food upcycling is one important way to reduce food waste by making the most of food byproducts that are underutilized because they have traditionally been seen as waste. How do we accomplish this? This brings us to our second R of food upcycling: recover.
Food waste is recovered when usable food is diverted out of waste streams and into new raw ingredients. This can take the shape of organizations that rescue food to feed people in need such as food shelves or startups that salvage food byproducts that are traditionally considered waste – e.g. fruit and vegetable pulp, salvaged “ugly” foods from supermarket waste streams, and our favorite, spent grain – to be used, in some cases, in upcycled food products. In essence, recovering food takes byproducts or commercially unattractive foods that would otherwise end up in waste streams and brings them to consumers’ plates in new ways.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one third of the food produced each year is lost or wasted. In industrialized countries, over 40% of this waste happens post-production; this means that over 40% of food waste occurs in the transportation process, in grocery stores, in consumers’ homes, and so on. While there is a great need for systematic changes to reduce the roughly 60% of waste that occurs in farming and processing, we’re focusing here on that 40% because that’s where recovering food can make a lasting impact.
Nutrients recovered from food waste can find new potential by becoming ingredients in new foods; this process is known as food upcycling. As we’ve touched on in other blogs, food upcycling brings new life to ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted and, in doing so, has a positive impact on the environment by reducing waste. Trends favoring environmental consciousness have increased demand for upcycled foods. The increasing trend toward doing good with food has in turn pushed the creation of a new trade association called Food Upcycling Association. http://upcycledfood.org/
Not only does food waste cause environmental damage and deny food to underprivileged members of the growing human population, it also imposes staggering financial costs: $680 billion in loss in industrialized countries and $310 in developing countries. Investing time and money into Innovation around recovering food will help enable us to feed the planet while protecting scarce financial resources.