You only put as much food on your plate as you can eat. The business model of the Crowdbutching company also follows our mum’s good advice. First meat orders are collected, then the animal is slaughtered. This way the company ensures that the meat rations are also used up 100%. Photo: Crowdbutching
Avoiding Food Losses and Waste
Food is a precious asset – and those who have little of it know this best. In western nations this is predominantly the war and post-war generations and/or their children. They still remember the preserving jars with cooked fruit and veggies tidily stacked on shelves in the basement. Nothing was to be lost or wasted, neither one’s own nor the neighbour’s harvest. This used to be just as much part and parcel of the food culture as was eating the leftovers the following day.
A world of abundance
In a world of abundance and consumerism this awareness of the value of food may be lost or move to the background. This is why national and international initiatives such as SAVE FOOD are all the more important, an initiative in which Messe Düsseldorf together with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Environment Programme of the United Nations (UNEP) has joined forces with various players from business, industry, society and political spheres to place the fight against food losses and waste in the public arena and to develop counter strategies and/or solutions.
222 million tons of food are wasted in affluent countries – this corresponds to the complete sub-Saharan food production in Africa. Projects like those initiated by the Lenert bakery show that old food can be turned into new delicatessen. Photo: Bäckerei Lenert
By accounts of the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO, one third of all foodstuffs produced for human consumption worldwide is lost or wasted. Translated into numbers this means merchandise worth some US$ 990 billion, and weighing approximately 1.3 billion tons goes to waste unused every year. This applies especially to fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, root and tuber crops. 40%-50% of this get lost, followed by fish at 35%. In terms of cereals some 30% do not make it from farm to fork; for oil seeds, meat and dairy products the figure is 20%.
Recently, some projects from Germany succeeded in capturing the public’s attention as they were awarded with prizes at the Federal Competition for Commitment against Food Waste 2018 ‘Too Good for the Bin!’ by the German Ministry for Nutrition and Agriculture. In the categories Retail, Hospitality, Agriculture & Production as well as Society & Education 15 projects out of the 152 entries submitted in 2018 were successful. Three promotional awards were given to innovative start-ups.
A high-proof idea – when old bread is distilled into schnapps. Photo: Kaisers gute Backstube
From the snout to the tail
Award winners include a project from Bavaria called ‘Crowdbutching’, which is now also offered to British and Dutch customers. With a view to wasting less meat, cattle, pigs and the like are already sold prior to slaughter. Consumers can order the packs of meat by simple mouse-click. The animal is only slaughtered once enough buyers have been found. This way meat is not produced in advance and unnecessarily disposed of later.
A similar principle underlies the idea of 16-year old Annalina Landsberg ‘Deine Ernte’ (Your Harvest) from Berlin. In Germany there are over 30 million gardens. Often, their owners do not know what to do with their harvests – as was the case in Landsberg’s garden. To make sure these products do not perish or are disposed of unnecessarily, the private gardeners can now offer their produce both fresh or preserved as jam on this regional online platform.
Turned into sandwiches or schnapps
Two other initiatives launched to prevent food waste and losses refer to the area of pastry. Here unsold bread is cut up into sandwich slices or distilled as bread schnapps. After all, some 10% of pastry in Germany – i.e. an average of several hundred tons – goes unsold. As a rule, only small amounts of this waste are given to food banks or processed into breadcrumbs and animal feed. Most of it still ends up in the bin.
Per capita waste by consumers is between 95 to 115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6 to 11 kg a year. Photo: FAO
Nominees in the category Agriculture & Production included Bäckerei Dietz from Lower Saxony. In cooperation with the distillery ‘Edelbrennerei Nordik’ it offers its shoppers a bread schnapps made of stale bread. In this way some 80% of the “returns” can be processed further. For the first distillation unsold bread was collected in ten outlets over a period of two weeks. Since these products tend to form mould quickly a special storage and refrigeration chain was installed especially for schnapps production. This example shows: good ideas assert themselves. A few years earlier the bakery ‘Kaisers gute Backstube’ from Baden-Württemberg had joined forces with master distiller Meisterbrenner Franz Wild to commercialise a schnapps made from unsold bakery products.
Situated slightly further north people in the German land Saarland were also fed up with wasting bread. Bäckerei Lenert from Blieskastel cooperates with product developers Markus Felchner and Udo Rössel to turn stale bread into new bread dumplings. Their special characteristic: they are not round and boiled in water but square and baked in the oven. Within a minute the sweet or savoury slices made from various stale items can be fried in a pan at home and served as a yummy side dish with fish or meat. And for lunch or out-of-home consumption the bakery also offers these dumpling slices topped with meat loaf, sauerkraut and sweet mustard as a mouth-watering snack sandwich.