It is no surprise that food waste is a problem in the United States. The latest study that the EPA did in 2017 estimated that 30.6 million tons of food was landfilled. The other 25% of food waste was diverted from the landfill by way of composting, biodigesters and feeding animals. There are several different options when diverting food from the landfill, but they are not all equal.
The EPA has a Food Recovery Hierarchy which prioritizes action to divert food waste from the landfill. Several factors are used to decide the most preferred method to the least preferred method. Some of the factors that affect the ranking are: economical impact, amount of methane produced and end use of the food waste. If food is wasted then why are we overproducing? Agriculture has become so efficient and has been able to reduce the use of land, water and resources, all while providing enough food to feed the American people. However, there is a disconnect with getting this food to the end user. This hasn’t been clearer than it has the last few months with COVID-19. Farmers have had food rotting on their fields while the grocery store shelves are empty. Source reduction is the most preferred method of reducing food waste but, it is also the most complicated problem to solve.
We’d like to focus on feeding animals; that is our expertise at Combs and Las Vegas Livestock (LVL). It is the most preferred use of post-consumer food waste. As much as we can improve the distribution of food in order to reduce pre-consumer food waste, there is going to always be some wasted food that needs to be recycled, and that is where feeding animals can shine.
One of the biggest challenges with feeding food scraps to animals is preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses. These commonly come from meat products that have been contaminated during and after slaughter. Just like the CDC recommends cooking poultry to a safe internal temperature or not eating raw eggs, farms must also make sure that they are handling this feed safely. We are regulated by the Swine Health Protection Act which outlines these safe handling instructions for food scraps that are post-consumer and/or contain meat. The basic outline of the law is farms must be licensed and the food must be held at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 min. This is important to protect consumers of pork and the health of pigs in the United States.
LVL is the only licensed food scrap feeder in the state of Nevada. We know the importance of following the Swine Health Protection Act, and representatives from the farm are involved in the National Pork Board so they can stay informed about the modern biosecurity initiatives to prevent spread of swine diseases. If you are a food waste producer that is looking to divert your food from the landfill, make sure you are taking your food to a licensed farm. Be suspicious of farms that will take food for free or pay for it. There are costs involved with maintaining a license and making sure the food is cooked and fed in a timely manner.