The public conversation around food waste in the U.S. has ramped up in recent years, and so has the produce industry conversation around the topic.
Reducing the amount of organic waste is important to companies not only because they want to see as much of their fruit and vegetable products used as possible, but also because companies often have to pay a significant amount to dispose of the produce scraps that cannot find a home elsewhere as animal feed or for other uses.
Nikki Rodoni, CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Measure To Improve, a consulting firm that helps ag companies improve and promote their sustainability efforts, noted that organic waste from produce processors used to be a revenue generator back in the 1980s, when processing was not as large a chunk of the industry as it is now. With consumer demand for value-added and convenience-oriented products at an all-time high, processing has grown significantly.
“Over the years, as we’ve begun to generate more of this material and feed lots ... have been leaving California because of regulatory mandates or for whatever reason, we’re losing that outlet, and so we’ve gone from it being a revenue generator for processing facilities because it was viable feed, additional feed or supplemental feed for these livestock animals, to the livestock animals/cattle feed lots picking it up for free and just getting rid of it for these companies, to now these feed lots are disappearing, so it’s becoming a huge problem,” Rodoni says.