Published: Fri, April 20, 2018
Life&Culture | By Rose Hansen

Recycled food waste in pig diets can reduce environmental footprint

Recycled food waste in pig diets can reduce environmental footprint

Fruits, vegetables, and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes (a salad or fruit cocktail, for example) accounted for more than a third of all food waste.

They found that the wasted food used up around 30 million acres of land every year-or 7% of all USA cropland-as well as 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water, 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer and 780 million pounds of pesticides.

The data was gathered from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index and USDA's What We Eat in America (WWEIA) database, as well as publicly available food waste data. We are also using this information to conduct a life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of feeding food waste to swine.

By now, it should surprise no one that we throw away a lot of food - a lot.

"Food waste is an issue that plays out at many different levels", said lead author Zach Conrad at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in North Dakota.

Historically, the small swine operations located near major cities served as significant users of food scraps and waste. Further, the amount of food wasted equals to 30 per cent of the average daily calories consumed for every American, or more than 320 million people. Although its use faded into history as larger pork production systems were built, which have relied on using corn and soybean meal as the main ingredients in swine diets, the use of heat-processed food waste is re-emerging.

"Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food", said Meredith Niles, a co-author of the study from the University of Vermont, in a statement.

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About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in USA households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes. Data from various United States government sources also allowed the researchers to estimate the amount of agricultural amendments such as irrigation water, pesticides and fertilizers used to produce uneaten food. They also, generally speaking, require less land but use more pesticides and water than other foods, thus contributing to increased waste.

The study found that the healthiest Americans are the most wasteful, due to their high consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are frequently thrown out.

Nuts and seeds, potatoes and mixed potato dishes, and table oils and salad dressing had the lowest rates of food waste at 12-18 percent each.

She said: "Consumers aren't connecting the dots, [and] they don't see the cost when they throw food in the trash".

Niles highlights efforts to reduce food waste, including French grocer Intermarché's "inglorious fruits and vegetables" campaign, which promotes the cooking of "the disfigured eggplant", "the ugly carrot", and other healthy, but otherwise superficially damaged produce.

Researchers say helping consumers understand the difference between produce that is just bruised versus produce that has truly spoiled is important to reduce food waste. "It's the time and energy required to prepare and store food, which often isn't a priority in a busy household".

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