Mushrooms called ‘poster child for sustainable'

01/30/2012 01:38:00 PM
Chris Koger

Few crops are grown as sustainably as mushrooms, grower-shippers say.

As Paul Frederic, senior vice president of sales and marketing for To-Jo Mushrooms, Avondale, Pa., puts it, “The mushroom industry is the poster child for sustainable.”

The ingredients used to grow mushrooms are basically byproducts — compost material made from mulch — or hay and straw that can’t be fed to animals because it’s a secondary grade, he said.

Mushroom growers take an agricultural product — hay and straw — for which there is no other use and grow mushrooms on it, producing a cash crop, said Kevin Donovan, sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms, Kennett Square, Pa.

Basciani Foods Inc., Avondale, is embarking on an environmental initiative in 2012, said general manager Fred Recchiuti.

The company is recycling its corrugated and eliminating white boxes wherever possible.

That’s because the bleach that’s used to whiten the wood pulp to make white boxes produces dioxins and toxic chemicals that are released into streams and rivers, he said.

The company’s New Year’s resolution is to become more environmentally friendly.

“We’re hoping that our long-time customers that have their own labels and box designs will follow our lead,” Recchiuti said.

Recchiuti got the idea for the initiative when his daughter told him that she had learned about being good stewards of environment in school.

“Everybody needs to look at their practices to see what they can do to minimize the environmental impact,” he said.

Watsonville, Calif.-based Monterey Mushrooms’ new sustainable packaging with attractive high-graphic labels started to hit store shelves this fall, said Joe Caldwell, vice president.

“This package, recognized with the Produce Marketing Association’s Impact Award at the Fresh Summit in Atlanta, includes biodegradable, recyclable trays to replace the old Styrofoam plastic trays used as the industry norm for decades,” Caldwell said.

“The new trays offer printable panels to give consumers more information about the superfood properties of mushrooms and the versatility they offer for many meals,” he said.

Customers of Dole Mushrooms in Kennett Square often ask what the company is doing to be sustainable, said director Gary Schroeder.

One of the company’s most recent innovations was switching from polystyrene foam containers to containers made with recycled polyethylene.


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