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Examining Food Loss and Food Waste in the United States

Choices Magazine | Posted on March 4, 2019

Food that is lost before it reaches the consumer, and food that is wasted by consumers, has been estimated to account for as much as 40% of the total food produced in the United States (Buzby, Wells, and Hyman, 2014; Hall et al., 2009). This represents losses of important resources—including water, chemical inputs, and labor—as well as unused nutrients for consumers. Stakeholders along the supply chain are increasingly interested in developing improved approaches to measuring food waste, understanding its determinants, and devising strategies to ultimately reduce it.

To date, a majority of food waste studies have focused on household-level waste; fewer studies have examined waste in food distribution and retail settings, and very little work has been conducted to understand the economic causes and consequences of food loss at the farm level. This Choices theme presents a collection of articles that explore food loss and food waste in the context of the U.S. food supply chain. The behavior and incentives of a variety of food system stakeholders including producers, market intermediaries (including retailers), and consumers are considered. The articles are organized along the supply chain, beginning with upstream issues of food loss proceeding through downstream topics such as household decisions concerning when to discard food. Taken together, this collection offers intriguing insights into current frontiers of the myriad private and public efforts to better characterize, quantify, and reduce food waste. The contribution by Dunning, Johnson, and Boys provides a novel framework for assessing the value of food lost on farms. They focus on six vegetables grown in North Carolina and use farm-level data to estimate the potential profits associated with additional harvests of marketable and edible crop that would ultimately reduce field-level food loss. Their results indicate that, under some conditions, additional harvests and subsequent sales would lead to modest yet nontrivial increases in per acre profits (notably for cucumbers and sweet potatoes). The framework developed here allows us to better understand the economic tradeoffs associated with reducing food loss in the fields and nudges us toward thinking more carefully about potential markets for foods, notably vegetables, which currently are not harvested.

Arizona House OKs requiring labels that almond milk is 'fake or alternative milk' | Posted on March 3, 2019

Lawmakers voted Wednesday to prohibit sale of “almond milk” in Arizona for the reason that almonds do not lactate.Consumers could still buy that product. But under the terms of House Bill 2604 it would have to be labeled as “fake milk” or “alternative milk.” And there would have to be a “prominent statement” on the package that the product is made from plants, grown in a lab or other similar disclosure.The bill would impose a similar restriction on the word “meat,” saying it could be used on packages for sale only if what is inside came from what had once been a living, breathing animal.

Here's How Dairy Giant Dean Foods Curdled Its Own Milk

Forbes | Posted on February 28, 2019

"I told you so" rings hollow when people stand to lose their jobs. But it’s worth noting that more than a few observers predicted in 2012, when Dallas-based Dean Foods shed its fast-growing organic and soy milk business, that turning the parent into largely a commodity player would hamper chances for growth. Now Dean, once hands down the nation’s largest dairy processor, is looking at “strategic alternatives,” including potentially putting itself on the auction block.Dean, which grew into a multibillion-dollar company largely through a series of acquisitions, said Monday it has “commenced a review to explore and evaluate potential strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value. These alternatives could include, among others ... the disposition of certain assets, the formation of a joint venture, a strategic business combination, a transaction that results in private ownership or a sale of the company.”

The FDA sees gene-edited animals as drugs

Newsweek | Posted on February 28, 2019

We eat mutations every day. All the vegetables, grains, fruits and meat humans consume as part of their diet is jam-packed with DNA speckled with mutations and beneficial variations.In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed to regulate a specific subset of these variations as drugs: In particular, those introduced into animal genomes using modern molecular techniques like gene editing. A drug is “an article (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of animals” according to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which was first signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938.I am a geneticist who specializes in how genetics can be used to improve the efficiency of livestock production. While I agree that DNA variation undoubtedly affects “the structure and function of the body of animals,” it is unclear to me why intentional DNA alterations introduced via gene editing in food animals should uniquely be considered a drug. This seems inconsistent given that the United States Department of Agriculture has no plans to treat such alterations in gene-edited plants as drugs because genetic variations are part of conventionally bred varieties. Ultimately this ruling may hinder the use of gene editing to introduce useful attributes—like disease resistance—into U.S. livestock populations.

Amazon’s got milk

The Quartz | Posted on February 27, 2019

Amazon is getting into the milk business through privately owned brand Happy Belly. The Happy Belly dairy items, spotted by brand tracker TJI, include various kinds of lactose-free milk (1%, 2%, whole, fat free), half and half, and whipping cream. “If you like Lactaid, we invite you to try Happy Belly,” reads a description on a product page, which also identifies Happy Belly as “an Amazon brand.”The prices compare favorably to Lactaid. A half gallon of Happy Belly 2% reduced fat milk, for example, is currently priced at $3.29. A half gallon of the comparable Lactaid product sells for $3.88 at Walmart.

Grain Free Pet Foods Disease Link Needs Research

Pet Food Industry | Posted on February 27, 2019

The investigation into a possible link between some ingredients in grain-free pet foods and atypical cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2018, has caused no small amount of concern for pet food companies, pet owners, veterinarians and retailers. One of the main reasons, and a continuing source of confusion and frustration, is that so little is still known about why these cases of DCM have occurred and what role, if any, the foods the dogs were eating played. Perhaps the title of a new research paper coming out in the March 2019 issue of the Journal of Animal Science best sums up the situation: “The association between pulse ingredients and canine dilated cardiomyopathy: addressing the knowledge gaps before establishing causation.”

Appetite for indoor urban farms growing in Calgary as way to produce fresh food year-round

Toronto Star | Posted on February 27, 2019

Two indoor farms finding commercial success in Calgary are NuLeaf Farms, which produces greens and herbs, and Deepwater Farms. Deepwater’s system, which currently occupies a 10,000-square-foot building in Calgary, combines both hydroponics and aquaculture to grow not just produce, but fish. The solid waste from the water the fish swim in is turned into a kind of liquid compost, which, in turn, nourishes the plants.“How amazing is it to say that you’re serving a fish that is produced a kilometre away from your restaurant? It doesn’t get any more local than that,” said MacLean. “It’s been on our menu since they brought the product out.” MacLean is an advocate for sustainable and restorative food practices, sourcing as many of his ingredients as possible from local producers.

Made-in-Canada lab-grown meat a possibility

National Post | Posted on February 27, 2019

A group of Toronto scientists will soon attempt to develop a less-expensive way to grow lab-made meat after securing a grant from an American non-profit aiming to boost advances in cultured protein. Cellular agriculture has been touted as the future of food thanks to its smaller environmental footprint and consideration for animal welfare, but until recently much of the research has been done south of the border.Cultured food uses cell cultures to grow animal products like beef, eggs or milk in a laboratory without the need for livestock. Some companies have already made these kinds of products, but it’s an expensive undertaking and no such items are readily available on store shelves yet.

IDF publication confirms milk pasteurization health benefits

Feedstuffs | Posted on February 27, 2019

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) has released a new Bulletin that provides an overview of some key technological, microbiological and nutritional aspects of milk pasteurization and reaffirms that the process does not significantly impact the nutritional properties of milk. From an evaluation of the best available science, it concludes that drinking pasteurized milk is still the best way to obtain milk’s many health benefits.“This bulletin clearly confirms the public health advantages of milk pasteurization from a microbiological perspective and the scientific basis demonstrating that it does not affect the nutritional value of milk,” lead author Kieran Jordan said. “It is an important review that furthers our knowledge of food safety and quality.”


Plant-based, animal protein demand shows no sign of letting up

Agri-Pulse | Posted on February 27, 2019

Farmers, ranchers, fisherman and the rest of agribusiness will try to satisfy dietary protein demands as the global population soars in number toward the nine billion the United Nations projects by 2040. With that steady increase comes rising incomes and, especially in developing countries, demand for more and more protein-laden foods. How to meet the demand? Boundless possibilities emerge, butting up against the array of challenges of bringing protein foods to market — the shrinking bases of arable land base and fresh water, for example, plus climate change, concern about animal agriculture’s environment impacts, animal rights issues, and more.