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Using Cattle To Help Combat Food Waste

In Canada, roughly one quarter of cereal-based foods, such as bread or cereal, is wasted.

Along with that, approximately 18% of fruits and vegetables go to waste; all at the consumer level. That doesn't count food that's thrown out from stores, restaurants, or crops that are unsuitable to be harvested and sold.

The large level of food waste is causing the University of Manitoba to look at how cattle could help reduce food waste across the country.

Reynold Bergen, Science Director with the Beef Cattle Research Council, says local farmers could and should try to reach out to grocery stores, if there are any nearby, and see if they can help them deal with waste.

"Food stores will have bruised apples that they know nobody will buy, so they just throw them out. What we're saying is instead of seeing those get thrown into the dumpster and hauled off to the landfill, if you do live close by and it makes sense, talk to the store and see if they'll set that stuff aside for you. Bruised produce and bakery products are really good, especially if they aren't bagged. If you buy a bunch of bagged bread, you'll have to do two things; tear it all out of the bag before you feed it to the cow, but then you're stuck with a whole bunch of plastic waste."

The goal is to try and contribute to a global initiative that is hoping to reduce food loss and food waste by 50% over the next 10 years.

"What we're trying to do is get livestock and cattle in particular acknowledged as part of the solution to this food loss and food waste issue." says Bergen.

While there are already systems in place to deal with spoiled crops and turn them into cattle feed, there's a push to have farmers try and make use of wasted food at grocery stories. Food waste from restaurants and households however is a bit trickier.

All food fed to cattle must be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and when we talk about household or restaurant food, much of it could be more spoiled than what's found at a store and there's a chance it could be contaminated. In fact, it's illegal at the moment to take food from a dinner plate and serve it to livestock. Right now, Asia is dealing with an African swine fever outbreak. It is believed that it may have spread across borders by people illegally buying plate waste from restaurants or households and feeding it to livestock.

Bergen says he hopes the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revises some of their current rules to make it easier for food waste to be fed to cattle. An example he provided was quinoa; it's a very popular food but the majority of the plant goes to waste when the quinoa seeds are harvested. Right now it cannot be used to feed livestock, but it would make sense in the future and would cut down on waste to change that rule.

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