While in college I worked at a commercial bakery during the night shift. My job duties varied day by day, but I remember one day vividly. Someone had accidentally misdated the baked bread and pastries on a particular production day and the shelf life codes were wrong. So we were instructed to throw out about thirty pallets worth of perfectly good bread and pastries.
I remember asking my supervisor about why we wouldn't call the local food bank or homeless shelter and donate the product. “Too much of a hassle, I guess. We just do what we’re told”, was the answer I received. Sadly, this wasn't an isolated incident and that summer I help throw out thousands of cases of baked goods.
There is a new Canadian documentary about the crazy amount of food waste in the U.S. and Canada called “Just Eat It.: A Food Waste Story.” I would encourage everyone to watch this short documentary over the holidays with your family. You can purchase the film for $9.99 or rent it for $3.99 on YouTube. It’s very well worth four bucks. See www.foodwastemovie.com for more information.
In the documentary, a couple decides to try to eat primarily, unspoiled, packaged food that has been thrown out into the garbage for six months. See how they do. Could you do this? For 6 months? Not me.
Working in the meat industry for over twenty years, I have seen only a small amount of meat waste. In the plant, If we ever have to rework product for packaging or other reasons, the meat can most always be donated, cooked or sent to rendering. In only a few instances have I seen meat thrown away because it was too spoiled to render.
The most food waste I have seen in the industry has been by looking into the roll off containers at the back docks of the plants. There is still a lot of meat on those bones. Yes, this all goes to rendering where it’s made into pet food, but there’s still a lot of perfectly good meat that could be used for human consumption.
If only we could find a way to recover all that good safe, edible beef left on the bones at beef plants. Wow, wouldn't that be something! Whoever can figure out how to do this would be an environmental hero in my book.
After watching this film, I know that I am very guilty. I do throw away a lot of food at home that goes bad in the fridge or sitting in the pantry too long. The documentary convicted me that I need to do a better job of managing food at home. I really like the idea put forth of using a bin in the fridge marked as “eat first”. There's a lot of other great practical ideas in the movie.
What about you? Have you seen a lot of food waste on the farm, at the store or at places you have worked?
How could we better utilize the food we produce that is “undesirable”, like produce that isn’t perfect?
I am thankful for the abundant food we are blessed to enjoy because of farmers, ranchers and growers that work hard to put food on our tables this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Be thankful and waste not...