Every day grocery stores generate large amounts of food waste – unsellable meat, seafood, fat and bones coming from either their food preparation department or pulled from shelves (because of looming expiration date). This material is routinely landfilled carrying with it an economic and environmental cost. If landfilled (where it then rots), these materials generate ozone-depleting methane contributing to the greenhouse gas effect and climate change. Is there a solution? Yes – food recycling.
Food recycling works
For grocers, meat and seafood are ideal recyclable materials that can be repurposed in one of two ways. First, through a direct feed, meat and seafood are fed directly to large, hungry animals (lions, tigers, bears, etc.) at local animal shelters.
Alternatively, the same meat and seafood can also be processed into protein-rich animal feed additives, being introduced into pet food formulation for example. In this example, this process is referred to as processed recycling because of the processing required to change the meat and seafood into another usable product.
While both food recycling forms – direct and process – are recommended methods of recycling meat and seafood, we’ll be covering specifically direct feed (i.e. using the meat and seafood to feed animals at local animal shelters). Managed by Quest Resource Management Group (Quest) — a subsidiary of Quest Resource Holding Corporation (NASDAQ: QRHC) — meat and seafood food recycling programs are a proven way to help grocers (that are already operating with very little margin) reduce operational costs while helping the environment — and the local community.
Let’s get started!
Implementing a meat and seafood food recycling program offers advantages for you as the grocer as well as for a local animal sanctuary and its animals (which we’ll outline in more detail later). Let us first lay out the logistics of a successful meat and seafood recycling program.
The key to the success of any meat and seafood food recycling program is, of course, the grocer. The grocer’s unusable meat and seafood are first isolated in refrigerated containers and held until the sanctuary comes to pick up the full container of meat. Acceptable meat can be in the form of full cuts of meat all the way to meat trim. Taking a T-bone steak as an example, everything from the whole steak to smaller cuts to trim can be included in the program.
Quality control processes are put in place to ensure that donated meat is well within its acceptable consumption life. In other words, at no point are animals being fed meat that is ‘expired’.
Both program participants (the grocer and sanctuary) use a series of multiple containers ensuring collection containers are always available. For example, the animal sanctuary brings back an empty container to swap with the full container waiting at the provider’s location. A layer of sanitization is embedded into the process ensuring health safety for everyone involved.
- REDUCED COST – Participation in a meat and seafood food recycling program enables you as a grocer to reap significant cost savings by reducing the costs associated with landfill disposal of heavy meat products. Disposal fees vary from city to city, but generally, it costs much less to participate in a meat and seafood food recycling program than it does to send that meat to local landfills.
- REDUCED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – By sending the meat and seafood to a local animal sanctuary instead, you as the grocer are reducing your environmental footprint (by diverting weight sent to the local landfill). Food such as meat and seafood sent to landfills decomposes and creates greenhouse gases such as methane. According to the EPA, landfills are the 3rd largest source of methane emissions in the United States, behind industry and agriculture.
- INCREASED COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – As a program participant, you reap the benefits of the ‘social goodwill’ that comes along with being a member of the local community. Not only does your offering of meat and seafood help local animal shelters in your community, but it also enables you to share your story with your consumers.
- IMPROVED PURCHASING QUALITY CONTROL – Participating in a meat and seafood food recycling program acts as another layer of quality control for purchasing. For example, through Quest’s program analytics and reporting a grocer can quantify the amount of excess material it purchased and rectify its buying pattern to be in line with the volume purchased by consumers. This layer of valuable insight is especially valuable if you have a chain of grocery stores participating in the program. The program data could enable you to pinpoint stores that need to streamline their purchasing departments.
- NO INCREASED LABOR COSTS – A successfully operated meat and seafood food recycling program should not add any additional time or labor costs to you, as the grocer. Once collection containers are established at your store, it is just a matter of placing the meat products into the recycling bin (versus a trash container).
A trusted partner
Implementing a meat and seafood food recycling program offers many advantages. However, in order to realize the maximum potential of a program you will need a trusted, experienced recycling management partner. Quest has a proven track record of managing food waste recycling programs for retailers across the country. In 2015 alone, Quest helped more than 8,000 individual retail locations differ more than 95,000 tons of meat and seafood from landfills through direct and process food recycling programs. Quest’s nationwide network of partners as well as the pricing leverage that comes along with that magnitude of partnerships. As a participating program partner (grocer), you would be able to directly leverage this already established network. All of this translates into peace of mind for you as the grocer partner.
Navigating food discard regulations
Because a meat and seafood recycling program involves the transfer (and transportation) of food, state regulations may be a consideration in implementing a meat and seafood recycling program. For example, some states ban food ‘donation’ outright while other states regulate what types of food (including meat and seafood) can be fed to livestock via recycling programs.
Make sure you partner with a company with a proven track record of safety, transparency and effective management to enjoy peace of mind from a well-managed program. In addition to managing compliance with food recycling regulations (by state), Quest plays several other key roles. First, Quest will verify the non-profit (501c3) status of any potential recipient (animal shelter). In addition to checking non-profit status, Quest also regularly audits all program recipients to ensure that animals are being cared for humanely. Lastly, Quest covers the cost of insurance for program recipients (animal shelters).
Each of the program management features mentioned above translates into the elimination of liability for both the grocer and recipient.
To learn more about how a direct meat and seafood recycling program could benefit your organization, contact us today by filling out the form below.