Chef Rajesh Gupta Chef instructor Culinary Academy Of india
Food is survival. It is the backbone of life itself. Plants and animals need food, and humans are no exceptions. But unlike plants and animals, humans have tendencies like overproduction and complicated processes like supply chain management. This has led to a manufactured crisis of epic proportions- food waste. What is the food waste crisis? Well, before we get there, let’s understand what food waste means.
Food waste represents consumable food that is either discarded by choice or left unattended, resulting in its spoilage. In a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, it was projected that food waste will multiply three times over by 2030. This means approximately 2 billion tons of food will be discarded or lost. That’s 66 tonnes of food waste per second. According to the BCG report, 2.5 lakh tonnes of food waste comes from the hospitality industry alone.
Now that we know what food waste is, you might wonder why there is a crisis? This is because food wastage has a much more catastrophic effect on the environment than you may be aware of.
Environmental effects top this list. When food waste is discarded into landfills, it rots and produces methane- a potent greenhouse gas that is fatal to the environment. Methane is also 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Food waste also accounts for the wastage of freshwater and groundwater resources. Roughly three times the volume of saltwater lakes is used to produce food that is 'not eaten'. Other environmental factors include land waste by creating more landfills, waste of fossil fuels required to grow, transport, store, and cook food, and harm to local biodiversity by introducing new pollutants in the area.
Since food waste happens at each stage of the global food value chain, it is our moral and ethical responsibility to develop the necessary measures to decrease it.
In the hospitality industry, approximately 4-10 percent of food purchased by restaurants is wasted before reaching the consumer. Improper storage, lack of storage practices, and poor environmental hygiene can quickly deteriorate the quality of ingredients. In addition, overproduction and hotel buffets further contribute to wastage. The main drivers of food waste at restaurants include oversized serving portions, inflexibility of store management, and extensive menu choices. All said, some measures can be taken to reduce the food waste generated drastically.
Food is survival. And food waste puts the planet’s survival at risk. As chefs, here are a few things we can do to go the extra mile to reduce our impact on the environment as individuals and as a collective.
- 1. Awareness and training:
Creating awareness and training staff for waste management in the workplace should be a priority for any professional kitchen. Making them aware of food waste, getting the team on board with the challenges of implementing a food waste strategy, and implementing strategies that will change how things are traditionally done in the kitchen must be a regular practice.
- 2. Menu Planning:
Efficient menu planning and assessing the popularity of each dish can assist in reducing the amount of stock that gets thrown away.
- 3. Inventory Evaluation:
Evaluating inventory to learn if food sits for a long time in storage and making sure that the place is not over-ordering to maximize the shelf life of perishable products can bring a considerable change.
- 4. Donate leftover food:
The leftover edible food that the overproduction causes can then be donated or redistributed amongst those who need it.
- 5. Composting:
Creating compost with the leftover food is another brilliant approach to reducing our environmental impact.
As chefs, it also becomes necessary to maximize your ingredient use. Vegetable scraps like peels, stems, and tops can make a stock or broth. Seafood shells can be used to make bisques, leftover chicken bones for chicken stock, and leftover fat from cuts of meats can be turned into lard. Other easy hacks include hydrating citrus peels and turning them into candies or garnishes. Fruit pulp can also work as an ingredient in desserts and smoothies. Apart from this, processes like canning and pickling can delay spoilage by increasing shelf life.
At every level of the global food chain, there are several macro and micro-level drivers of food wastage across all industries, including hospitality, packaged food, and our homes. But awareness and adaptation of small steps in day-to-day operations by implementing food-saving practices can significantly improve the planet's situation. Remember, change happens with you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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