The recent publication of "Leftovers for Livestock: A Legal Guide for Using Excess Food as Animal Feed, could help fuel new efforts to reduce food waste and develop cost-efficient feeding programs for U.S. livestock.

According to the guide, in the United States, approximately 160 billion pounds of food are wasted every year. The U.S. spends $218 billion each year growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of this food. As wasted food breaks down in landfills, it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 56 times the atmospheric warming power of carbon dioxide. "Given the significant environmental impacts of wasted food, there has been increasing interest and investment in diverting food from landfills in creative ways," the guide states.

At the same time, feed is by far the largest expense for livestock producers, so opportunities for alternative feed sources are attractive to the livestock sector.

Developed by the University of Arkansas Food Recovery Project and Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, the goal of the guide is to encourage the appropriate and lawful diversion of food scraps to animals. This could create mutually beneficial partnerships between food waste generators and livestock growers and, ultimately, can reduce the negative environmental impacts of wasted food.

The guide covers both federal regulations, and a state-by-state breakdown of laws and governing bodies to help food purveyors and livestock producers properly and legally divert food waste to animal feed.