Tag Archives: environmental footprint of food

A Student of Life…

I gained many great ideas at Dartmouth College, but an intrinsic love of learning provided the most precious lesson. Although I traded Hanover, NH for the plains of Nebraska almost 18 years ago, the desire to always build knowledge remains a steadfast component in my life journey. My favorite farmer smiles and rolls his eyes a bit when a new topic catapults me into research mode, but after 22 years with me he appreciates that it is one of the things that makes me “Anne”.

My journey studying food waste ultimately originated in volunteer work that I do relative to animal (bovine) welfare. Welfare provides an important component to sustainability both from a social perspective as well as an environmental perspective. I feel that one of my greatest environmental victories as a farmer comes from improving the feed conversion of my cattle – reducing the pounds of feed resources required to make a pound of beef. There are a myriad of factors that go into this improvement, but quality animal welfare (as determined by the unique needs of the bovine) rises quickly to the top.

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The bridge from welfare to sustainability ultimately led me to begin studying the topic of food waste. Prior to this, I had no idea how much food ended up in landfills making it a critical component to sustainability.  Last Thursday I shared with all of you a list of things that I do both on farm and in my kitchen to work to limit waste, today I share a few of the headline statistics that inspired me to devote more energy to the topic.  Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council compiled these findings as well as providing initial suggestions for areas of improvement relative to food waste from farm to fork.

One of my favorites -- smoked beef brisket...

One of my favorites — smoked beef brisket…

Getting food from farm to fork uses:

10% of the total U.S. energy budget

50% of U.S. land

80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States

Despite this valuable use of resources, 40% of food in the United States goes uneaten costing Americans over $160 billion dollars each year.

The majority of the uneaten food ends up in landfills and provides the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste — Thereby becoming a significant source (EPA estimate of 23% in 2010) of methane emissions.

Reducing food losses by 15% would provide enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans per year.

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Perhaps it is because I see everyday on my farm how many resources go into growing food, or perhaps it is simply because I want to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds me; but as I look at the above statements I am motivated to work for positive change.

I hope that you will stick with me on this journey and continue to offer your own suggestions for improvement.

 

 

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Filed under General, Sustainable Spring

Food Waste — We All Play a Role…

A study performed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2011 found that in the United States approximately 40% of all food grown for human consumption is wasted. While beef “food waste” is lower than that average, its’ 20% figure still staggers me.

Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson with my favorite blonde cowgirl...

Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson with my favorite blonde cowgirl (a couple of years ago)…

Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, through her work developing a lifecycle assessment for beef (NSF certified 2013), identified that cutting consumer waste of beef in half would improve the overall sustainability of beef farming by a whopping 10%. As a cattlewoman who cares about environmental responsibility, this statistic caught my attention.

Because I am both a farmer and a consumer, I recently spent some time thinking about things that I do, both at the feed yard and in my kitchen, to reduce waste.

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As a Cattle Farmer:

  1. The majority of my cattle are born and raised in the Sandhills of Nebraska. This unique grassland ecosystem allows for cattle to turn land not suitable for crop production into meat all while improving wildlife habitat and protecting the natural beauty of the land.
  2. After the cattle move from the ranch to my feed yard in preparation for harvest, more than half of what they eat is “by products”. In other words, during the final phase of beef production, cattle are *recyclers* and eat the part of the plant that is leftover after its’ primary use is complete.
  3. The majority of my cattle live their entire lives within a two hour radius of my farm which reduces both animal stress and transportation costs. Both of these components lesson the environmental footprint of my beef.
  4. The waste material (manure) that my cattle produce is recycled by my favorite farmer and used to maintain soil health on our crop farm.
Homemade meatloaf with home grown tomatoes is one of my summer favorites!

Homemade meatloaf with garden fresh tomatoes is one of my summer favorites!

As a Mom and a “food consumer”:

  1. My favorite farmer and I eat dinner leftovers (reheated for lunch)
  2. Food not eaten by our family is fed to my favorite teenager’s Rhode Island Red Laying Chickens, and thereby *Recycled* into eggs for our family.
  3. We make frequent trips to the grocery story (mostly because as a working mom I struggle on organized planning for meal preparation, but on the positive side this decreases the amount of food purchased that deteriorates in the refrigerator before being eaten.)
  4. Any portion of food individually taken at the dinner table is expected to be eaten. Our girls are good about cleaning their plates and not taking more food than they are able to eat. This facilitates saving leftovers for future lunch use.

It is estimated that food waste costs the average American family of four $1365.00-$2275.00 per year. This out of pocket cost is in addition to the environmental impact of wasted resources as well as food security issues. While reform is needed at each sector of the food production system, food waste at the household level is the most costly as the resources needed to deliver the food to the plate are highest at this last stage of the food production chain.

How do you limit food waste in your kitchen?

Author's note: Reducing food waste is a personal goal.

Author’s note: Reducing food waste both on my farm and in my kitchen is a personal goal. I plan to revisit this topic periodically and hope that you will share in the journey by thinking of and sharing ways that you too can reduce food waste.

Together we can make a more sustainable planet…

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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General