Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Food Truck!

I am impressed by the amount of food that ends up in the trash. I recall somewhere that as much as 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is thrown out. So I looked it up:

In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change:

  • Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills. 
  • The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.
  • Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills,external link quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United Statesexternal link
This is according to the USDA, which has also set a goal for food loss and waste reduction:

On September 16, 2015, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg announced the United States’ first-ever national food loss and waste goal, calling for a 50-percent reduction by 2030. USDA and EPA will work in partnership with charitable organizations, faith organizations, the private sector, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources.

What I do not see specifically mentioned in this strategy is the impact garbage haulers could have on the problem. As the last point of contact with much food waste, we can make a difference. And we do. Consider:
Unopened and rescued. Charlie was grateful for a reprieve from sugarless peanut butter. And this:

Unopened, but perhaps a bit dicey. We decided not to eat it. Probably enough sodium to kill any bacteria. Holiday Gas Stations really know how to make a sandwich! And this:

Canned "meat" always a good bet. Charlie would have none of it, but...

 Waste not, want not.

Let's just wash those canned squid down with these discarded micro-brewskis! Mmm. Didn't forget to wash the tops before opening.

The best kept secret among trash-foodies is the abundance of raspberry bushes in the alleys of St. Paul. We harvest the neglected bushes and make ourselves sick. I will also say that one or two potentially award winning apple trees are in the alleys, picked only by us.

So yes, we haulers are recovering food heading for waste.Yet our current approach is sporadic and unorganized. To make a lasting change in our country, we need to come together. That is why International Haulers United to Reduce Loss of Food, or IHURLFood, is being launched, to rescue food otherwise headed for the landfill.

You are skeptical.
"Sure," you say, "but how much of what is thrown away is safe to eat?" Fair point. A very small percentage of what we find is in unopened containers with a shelf-life of forever. And yes, in the warmer weather there are maggots involved.

There is, thankfully, a well established and culturally accepted solution. In meat processing, it is called Advanced Meat Recovery, or more commonly known as mechanically separated chicken, beef or pork. This is what is also known as "scrapings off the meat plant floor" by people who shop at Whole Foods. Those of us who shop at Coopers call it hot dogs. The "scrapings--floor" myth is an exaggeration.

What they do is this: A machine scrapes (not the floor, but) the bones. Just like my dog, Toivo would do--so I guess it's natural. Then those natural scrapings are rinsed with ammonia to kill bad germs, just like we do to our bathrooms. So it's safe. Then it looks like this:


Then of course it is dyed to get rid of the ishy pink color that would make people think of what is in it.

With this technology and experience in place, there is no reason why even the most disgusting food from a garbage truck

cannot be reclaimed and made into a Happy Meal... for the good of us all.

And thank you for your support for IHURLFood.


  1. Humble John! You always have interesting finds, but I strongly believe however that food of any kind should not be non-perishable unless it is naturally cured. Salt-brined vegetables or smoke-cured meats for example are natural processes of preserving food and are done by many generations of people across various cultures and people. The huge and vast amounts of non-perishable foods in the shelves of our supermarkets tell a grand story. It is that a large chunk of our food that we buy and consume are unnaturally preserved, filled with junk and chemicals unnecessary and harmful for all living organisms. It is done for the sake of longer lasting shelf-life that American society unfortunately values over its negative health implications. This is sadly "first-world" country for us!