Category Archives: Sustainability

“Bad” Fruits, Veggies, Turn “Good”

misfit fruits

Photo: Portland (ME) Press Herald

Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets has begun offering less-than-perfect produce on sale in 15 of its home-state stores. Hannaford launched the same program in the Albany NY area last year, resulting, so far, in keeping some 100,000 pounds of edible food from being discarded.

Others jumping on the “misfit produce” bandwagon include Giant Eagle in the Pittsburgh area and Whole Foods in California. France’s Intermarche chain also has saved a lot of otherwise passed over produce and a lot of cash for customers, who enjoy discounted prices on oddly-shaped or slightly bruised items.

While a similar recycling program failed to gain traction in Raley’s supermarkets in California, the concept is providing to be a winner with consumers in a growing number of places – and why shouldn’t it, when shoppers are able to enjoy savings of as much as or more than 30% off regular retail prices.

 

A National Public Radio article on this trend noted last year that Americans waste enough perfectly nutritious but odd looking fruits and veggies annually to fill “44 skyscrapers” – a rather imprecise term, but you get the point.

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It’s Settled: The UK’s Best Chippy Is Kingfisher’s Fish & Chips in Devon

kingfisher-fish-chipsjpg

Photo: National Fish and Chip Awards

After seven months of magnifying-glass scrutiny of everything from the fish and chips themselves to responsible sourcing practices, the observations of mystery shoppers, and more, the Kingfisher Fish and Chips shop in Devon has captured top honors at the UK’s National Fish & Chip Awards this week in London.

The judges said the overall enthusiasm of the owners, identified simply as Craig (Maw) and his “partner,” Nikki was a important factor in the decision to declare, as The Mirror newspaper put it, that they had “battered” their competition. It didn’t hurt that, beyond their menu staple (a number of species of them!), they offer whole lobster (at £15), chicken wings, racks of ribs, burgers, and a range of “barista” coffees.

The item photos on their web site make you want to hop on whatever mode of transport you need to get there and… go!

By the way, there’s a video link in the Mirror story recounting the history of fish and chips. It’s a couple of minutes long, and well worth your time.

Preventing Food Waste Is Goal of Paris’s Freegan Restaurant

What can, by now, be called ‘a movement’ to reduce food waste – in one of the cleverest-possible ways, is what Paris’s Freegan Pony restaurant is all about. Chef Aladdin Charni feeds some 400 people daily on perfectly good food that, were it not for him, would have been discarded as ‘waste’ by merchants at Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale food market.

Why would all these vegetables – Freegan serves only vegetarian meals – be destined for destruction? Their ‘sell by’ dates had, or were on the verge of being, past.

What inspired Charni to establish his restaurant?

In order for us to prove the value and safety of food waste, we couldn’t just feed specific demographics of people. We believe food waste is absolutely fit for human consumption and so that’s who we feed – human beings,” Charni told CNN.

He explained that while he sources from numerous places – including food banks, restaurants, cafes, food photographers, evens, and functions – perhaps his greatest, and most reliable source is the Rungis market. Because the wholesalers there are selling to a spectrum of resellers as well as restaurants, they want their produce to leave the market at, or approaching, its freshness peak. When something – even a case of something – gives a merchant reason to suspect it’s past one of those points, they don’t try to sell it. They can’t: The French are particular about their food, and the Rungis merchants are particular about their reputations.

An increasing number of U.S. supermarket operators are making similar efforts to avoid seeing produce that may not be quite ‘fit for prime time’ be tossed into the dumpster. Instead, many are using perfectly healthy but just-past-prime foods in their in-house prepared food operations. In worst case scenarios, where something more than a few days beyond prime, it can form the basis for a soup – one already in the kitchen’s repertoire, or a new, innovative one.

Savings from not throwing perfectly good food out can be substantial. Of course it’s a lot easier to monitor the age of produce in a store than in one’s home, where things often are stuck into plastic containers are placed, in no logical way, on shelves. The volume of food ‘lost’ in this way amounts, amazingly, to more than 10% of what is bought for home use.

Consumers can save themselves a great deal of money if they create systems for refrigerator-storing of food. Both uncooked items and leftovers too often get overlooked until they are unsalvageable.

Its recent report on the Freegan Pony restaurant, on Paris’s outskirts, described how chef Aladdin Charni feeds some 400 people daily on perfectly good food that, were it not for him, would have been discarded as ‘waste’ by merchants at Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale food market.

Why would all these vegetables – Freegan serves only vegetarian meals – be destined for destruction? Their ‘sell by’ dates had, or were on the verge of being, past.

What inspired Charni to establish his restaurant?

In order for us to prove the value and safety of food waste, we couldn’t just feed specific demographics of people. We believe food waste is absolutely fit for human consumption and so that’s who we feed – human beings,” Charni told CNN.

He explained that while he sources from numerous places – including food banks, restaurants, cafes, food photographers, evens, and functions – perhaps his greatest, and most reliable source is the Rungis market. Because the wholesalers there are selling to a spectrum of resellers as well as restaurants, they want their produce to leave the market at, or approaching, its freshness peak. When something – even a case of something – gives a merchant reason to suspect it’s past one of those points, they don’t try to sell it. They can’t: The French are particular about their food, and the Rungis merchants are particular about their reputations.

An increasing number of U.S. supermarket operators are making similar efforts to avoid seeing produce that may not be quite ‘fit for prime time’ be tossed into the dumpster. Instead, many are using perfectly healthy but just-past-prime foods in their in-house prepared food operations. In worst case scenarios, where something more than a few days beyond prime, it can form the basis for a soup – one already in the kitchen’s repertoire, or a new, innovative one.

Savings from not throwing perfectly good food out can be substantial. Of course it’s a lot easier to monitor the age of produce in a store than in one’s home, where things often are stuck into plastic containers are placed, in no logical way, on shelves. The volume of food ‘lost’ in this way amounts, amazingly, to more than 10% of what is bought for home use.

Consumers can save themselves a great deal of money if they create systems for refrigerator-storing of food. Both uncooked items and leftovers too often get overlooked until they are unsalvageable.

Crickets are new ‘in’ Food in Silicon Valley

CRICKETS-in California
Co-founder Andrew Brentano, of Berkeley, hold a container of roasted crickets at Tiny Farms in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. Tiny Farms breeds and raises crickets, which have become a trendy course of protein. The insects can be roasted and consumed as a snack or ground into “cricket flour” and baked into snacks like cookies or power bars. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

Crickets are the new ‘in’ food in Silicon Valley – and in a lot of other places. As Food Trade Trends reported in January, “the concept of eating insects, or being able to buy consumer products made from insects, is hardly new.” In fact, they have long been a staple for people in many countries.

One of the reasons for crickets’ popularity is that they are 70% protein. So when made into cookies and chips, as San Francisco-based Bitty Foods is doing, they make excellent snacks – as workers in start-ups around Silicon Valley are increasingly consuming them.

Proponents note the tiny, chirping bugs are high iron as well as protein, and they can serve as a sustainable alternative to beef or chicken.

Another west coast company focused on crickets is Tiny Farms, in San Leandro, California. It is breeding crickets for mass consumption, and New York-based Exo using them in protein bars. The products are showing up in Silicon Valley break rooms, and investors and entrepreneurs are paying close attention.

 

“I would say there’s a new  [insect-using company] that launches every six months, maybe even more frequently than that,” Exo co-founder Greg Sewitz said recently to The San Jose [California] Mercury News.

In addition to crickets, street vendors across Thailand offer everything from those critters to silk worms.

And in Mexico, fried grasshoppers, or chapulines, are a favorite.

Companies like Exo and Bitty are part of a larger trend of food startups that are replacing meat, gluten and dairy in everyday products. Investors have poured more than $500 million into companies such as plant-based imitation meat maker Impossible Foods of Redwood City and meal replacement Soylent, according to venture capital database CB Insights.

Impossible Foods has raised $183 million from big names including Bill Gates and Google Ventures, and Soylent raked in $21.5 million from backers including Andreessen Horowitz. Investment in these next-generation food startups is on track to hit record growth this year, CB Insights analyst Zoe Leavitt told the Mercury News.

Chocolate-covered insects and lollipops with bugs suspended in transparent, sugary candy have long been available as novelty items, but the crickets-as-protein movement began picking up steam in 2013 with a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The report touted the nutritional benefits of insects and introduced them as a potential solution to a rapidly approaching problem: The world will house 9 billion people by 2050, forcing humans to nearly double their food production using a limited supply of land and water. Crickets need one-twelfth as much food as cattle and half as much as chickens to produce the same amount of protein. They require less water and space to farm, produce minimal amounts of greenhouse gases and can be fed organic waste, according to the report.

“Edible insects are one of the most sustainable forms of protein on the planet,” said Megan Miller, co-founder of San Francisco-based startup Bitty Foods.

But whether they can be used as a more environmentally friendly alternative to other meats will depend on how the insects are farmed and what they are fed. A report published last year by researchers with the University of California-Davis found more study is needed to evaluate the long-term potential of bugs as protein, and concluded “the potential for crickets to supplement the global supply of dietary protein appears to be more limited than has been recently suggested.”

Of the world’s 2,000 types of edible insects, crickets seem to be gaining the most traction in the U.S. They have a neutral flavor — “sort of nutty and toasty with a bit of earthiness,” Miller said — and aren’t as frightening as spiders or scorpions.

“Tech workers are generally the people who are most interested in new trends and in innovation,” Miller said. “I don’t think there’s any place else in the world where you have the intersection of foodies and innovation like you do in the Bay Area. So it’s the natural place to launch a slightly strange product.”

Many companies that make cricket snacks, including Bitty and Exo, get their bugs from Entomo Farms in Canada. But San Leandro’s Tiny Farms is ramping up its own small cricket farm with the hope of providing cricket connoisseurs with a local, low-cost alternative.

Tucked into a warehouse it shares with artists working on Burning Man projects, biotech firms, a 3-D printing company and a rabbit supply store, the Tiny Farms space is filled with the incessant chirping of millions of crickets crawling over pallets that resemble broken apart egg cartons. Co-founder and CEO Daniel Imrie-Situnayake hopes to have his bugs on the market by the end of September. His long-term goal is to make crickets a realistic protein option by reducing their price — a pound of cricket flour now costs about $20, he said.

“If a pound of beef cost $20, no one would eat burgers anymore,” Imrie-Situnayake said. “So we really need to get the price even lower.”

For the more daring, Tiny Farms also deep fries whole crickets, legs, antennae and all, and serves them with lime, salt and chili powder. The end result is a greasy morsel with a light, airy crunch and the earthy flavor of a pumpkin seed.

“They’re a really good bar snack,” Imrie-Situnayake said, “good with chips and guac.”

 

Down With Pork? How About Cutting Down on All Meat!

 

french_cafeteria_meal

Photograph: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images (and The Guardian)

Many years ago, France was so language proud that words from elsewhere were banned. Now, with le hot dog and various other ‘cross-over’ words being very much du jour, the battle for French ‘purity’ has moved to a new front: The school cafeteria.

Where for 30 or more years parents could choose an other-than-pork entrée for their children, some schools have removed that option, leaving Jewish children and, increasingly, Muslim ones, with no meat option at all when, say, roast pork, Strasbourg sausage or ham-pasta bake is on the menu.

When one parent queried at her small town’s administrative office why the change had been instituted, she was told, bluntly,  “From now on, that’s the way it is. Pork or nothing,” The Guardian reported late last year.

The issue, French officials say, is “secularity.” Parents of affected children, who often are themselves too young to understand why their families don’t eat pork, understandably view the matter as a form of discrimination – secularity be damned!

In at least two other jurisdictions – a portion of Germany, and around Houston, Texas – some schools are voluntarily opting to offer other-than-pork options.

An observer in Houston told us that, “Here, we also don’t use pork on a purely voluntary basis to accommodate religious needs. Some of our schools have significant Muslim populations.”

FoodTradeTrends.com was told by the German Embassy in Washington that, “In light of the current refugee situation, several public cafeterias and kindergartens in Germany decided voluntarily to stop or limit the serving of pork out of respect for Muslim migrants. In light of this, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union, a political party) in the state of Schleswig-Holstein submitted a proposal earlier this month to maintain the use of pork in school lunches.

“The disputed application was rejected on March 9th by all the other political parties within the Schleswig-Holstein state parliament. The consensus in the parliament is that each public cafeteria or kindergarten can decide on its own whether it wants to offer pork.

“The reduction of pork in school cafeterias is not based purely on a higher number of Muslim students, but rather on changes in nutrition standards and an overall goal to consume less meat.”

Several American organizations, the American Heart Association being prime among them, are strongly encouraging the consumption of less meat, overall, and less red meat, in particular, for health reasons. The AHA’s D.A.S.H. diet – D.A.S.H. stands for Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension – is widely recognized as being not just a good approach to dealing with and/or preventing hypertension (high blood pressure), it also is very effective for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and managing or preventing diabetes, U.S. News & World Report said earlier this year, when naming D.A.S.H. “the best diet” for the sixth year in a row.

There are at least two other reasons why eating less meat is a good idea. One, a major part of the mission of The Reducetarian Foundation, is to spare farm animals from cruelty. There’s also the fact that, as SustainableTable.org points out, “The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide. Far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption one a week can help slow this trend.

Essentially making that same argument is the “Take Extinction Off Your Plate” initiative of the Center for Biological Diversity. Its website says, “Wild animals suffer not only the collateral damage of meat-related deforestation, drought, pollution and climate change, but also direct targeting by the meat industry.”

As a long-age advertising campaign said relative to Levy’s Jewish Rye Bread, “You don’t have to be Jewish…” or Muslim, or vegetarian … to favor pork- and even meat-free diet options!