Las Vegas may have a reputation as a place of excess; however, that may not be the case when it comes to food waste. Several businesses are using innovative sustainability programs which are making a difference. For example, MGM Resorts in Las Vegas collects uneaten food from nearly 200 restaurants and dining facilities (14,000 tons in 2011) and reclaims many of their food scraps to feed pigs safely and nutritiously at a nearby farm.
This is a great example of how some businesses are bringing the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy to life. In case you’re not familiar, the Food Recovery Hierarchy offers recommendations to help Americans understand the enormous impact that reducing or recovering food waste can have on the sustainability and security of our food system and our environment. The first two tiers, Source Reduction and Feed Hungry People, provide the most benefit for the environment, society and the economy. The third and next best step, according to the EPA, is to use food to feed animals instead of throwing it away.
This doesn’t mean feeding table scraps to pets. Instead, it’s commonly given to supplement the diets of livestock, such as cows and cattle. Proper nutrition and food safety are as important for livestock as for people. Dairy cows, for example, have carefully regulated diets designed by animal nutritionists to help keep them healthy so they can give high-quality milk.
You may be interested to know the food that’s given to livestock, including food waste from human foods, is regulated by a number of agencies including the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture to ensure livestock are fed safely and nutritiously. Some states don’t allow human food to be fed to livestock, while others regulate what can be donated and some require food waste be cooked before being fed to livestock for food safety.
No matter how it’s done, taking every opportunity to divert food away from landfills is important. Retailers, wholesalers, schools and universities that generate waste can find environmental and economic value in working with farmers.
If you want to get involved, opportunities exist. Contact your local solid waste, county agricultural extension office or public health agency for information.
If you are interested in learning more, the EPA has several case studies of successful partnerships on its website and recommendations for getting started. Opportunities to innovate and collaborate in solving the food waste issue is going to require every tool at our disposal – we can make a difference!
This is the fourth post in a six-part series. Click below for the other posts in this series: