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Arkansas Food & Beverage Manufacturers Reducing Food Waste

 August 22, 2018

Reports indicate up to 40 percent of food grown, processed and transported in the United States is never consumed, yet one in eight Americans suffers from food insecurity. The average four-person family loses $1,500 a year on food they purchase but discard or don’t eat, often due to forgetfulness or fear of spoilage.

In manufacturing and packaging, food waste costs corporations an estimated $2 billion each year – and about $15 billion for farmers — while dumping an estimated 52 million tons in landfills.

The impact of food waste is social, environmental and economic — children and elderly people are going hungry, natural resources are being squandered and ever-rising costs of food affect both businesses and consumers.

Arkansas Reduces Food Waste

The combination of the food industry and technology in Arkansas is yielding modern food processing techniques and other ways to curb food waste along the value chain.

Several Arkansas food and beverage industry leaders are taking steps to eradicate food waste, from changing policies and logistics, to rethinking how to use previously discarded foodstuff.

Environmental Sustainability

Tyson Foods launched “¡Yappah!” this summer, bite-sized chicken crisps made from upcycled chicken breast, rescued carrots and celery puree from juicing, or malted barley from beer brewing. Founded in Springdale, the world leader in poultry and beef is dedicated to seeking new ways to make more and better food while helping to build a more sustainable food system.

Rizal Hamdallah, head of Tyson Innovation Lab said, “The ¡Yappah! brand mission is unique, important and far-reaching. It was created to inspire people and partners to rethink their relationship to food and how it impacts society. Through this launch, we intend to address global food challenges such as food waste.”

The chips come in four different flavors — chicken celery mojo, chicken carrot curry, chicken IPA, and white cheddar and chicken sunshine shandy — and are packaged in recyclable aluminum cans. The crisps should be available to consumers in October.

Emerging Technology

Bentonville-based Walmart has introduced Eden technology that focuses on tracking the freshness of produce as it travels from farm to wholesaler to retailer to table. Sensors measure and report temperature, moisture and metabolite data, which is then converted to carton-level freshness and shelf life assessment using FDA standards, among other data.

For example, bananas travel from seven Latin American countries to some 4,000 Walmart grocery stores in the United States. When placed in a container truck, the sensor system would determine if a shipment of fruit should be rerouted to a closer store to optimize freshness for consumers.

Walmart seeks to eliminate $2 billion in waste over the next five years and has already prevented $86 million in waste by using Eden in 43 of its distribution centers.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

ConAgra Brands, which makes Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s frozen meals in Russellville, Arkansas, has been leading food waste reduction efforts for nearly a decade and achieved an 81.7 percent landfill diversion rate in 2017 corporate-wide.

“Waste reduction is critically important to our company and we are dedicated to making improvements throughout our operations as part of our zero waste strategy,” said Gail Tavill, vice president, sustainable development, ConAgra Brands.

Its strategy focuses on reducing the amount of waste generated in their facilities and avoiding the need to transport valuable materials for discard in landfills. 

“By characterizing materials that don’t make it into finished goods as ‘by-products’ instead of ‘waste,’ we create a culture that allows a shift in thinking away from disposal and towards value creation,” Tavill said. “Many by-products of food preparation are highly valued as animal feed, source material for recycling, energy recovery or composting, or sometimes even suitable for donation to feed people when safe and properly handled.”  

Collaborative Approach

Multi-stakeholder nonprofit ReFED takes a data-driven approach to revolutionize how the industry looks at food waste, by identifying concrete opportunities to save money and resources, feed people and create jobs. That’s part of the mission of The Wallace Center at Winrock International, and why its director Jon Fisk sits on the ReFED advisory board along with more than 50 other business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders who inform the organization’s food waste reduction mission.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to food waste reduction at the industry level, efficient, cost-effective companies are best positioned not only to significantly reduce food waste, but also to deliver affordable products to consumers, create and grow jobs, and support their communities.

Food waste management as practiced by several Arkansas food and manufacturing industry leaders is not only saving money and resources, it’s making a difference in the lives of our citizens and people around the globe.