Animal Feed as a Solution to Food Waste

Samantha Alpert – Animal Science
Chris Astrauckas – Animal Science
Joe Bynoe – BCT

Dairy cattle  Molinos Champion S.A. (2009.).  Retrieved from
Dairy cattle
Molinos Champion S.A. (2009.). Retrieved from’

As a child, there were probably many times when you couldn’t finish the food on your plate. Instead, you slipped it under the table to your pet dog or cat, hoping your parents wouldn’t notice. However, they usually did and you usually received a scolding. Now, imagine if rather than something for which people were scolded, this was put into large scale action by businesses across the country.

The unfinished food on personal plates and home trashcans is only representative of a larger issue. The real problem lies with large-scale food producers, grocery stores and restaurants. In 2010 the United States disposed of almost “133 billion pounds of food waste of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels…[This equates to] about $161.1 billion dollars worth of wasted food” (2013, Buzby et. Al p.1).  The United States must find a sustainable disposal method for the massive amounts of food waste it produces.

An innovative alternative to landfilling:
More and more states and cities are placing bans on commercial food industries landfilling organic waste and food industry waste, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland (Henricks, 2014). In 2013, New York City also declared a ban on this method of food waste disposal. This ban would affect facilities “generating more than one ton of food waste per week” (Henrick, 2014). The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection currently requires food waste generators use all food waste for composting, anaerobic digesting or animal feed. (Henricks, 2014).

The amount of commercially produced food waste, on both the large and small scale, needs to be reduced. With nearly fifty percent of this waste being derived from fruit and vegetable origins (Froetschel, 2012. p. 1), recycling this waste into animal feed would drastically reduce the overall amount of waste produced. Many companies are already doing this. In his article on marketing food residuals as animal feed, Glenn (1997) states that “ Anheuser-Busch’s breweries [give] about 1.5 million tons of spent brewer’s grain to cattle feed” (p. 43).  This is an example of a food business already incorporating this recycling method.

Recycling food residuals into animal feed would be practical when applied to large industries, such as grocery stores. These stores produce significant amounts of food waste, most of which is taken away as trash and inevitably piled into a landfill to produce methane (source). In his article from the University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Froetschel (2012) gives the example of one company that solves this issue extremely efficiently:

A recycling company based in Georgia, Viridiun LLC, was established in 2009 and has quickly developed an extensive food waste collection, milling-processing and feed distribution system. At present the company recycles fruit, vegetable and bakery food waste from several hundred Wal-Mart stores located in the southeast. (p. 1)

Companies as large as Wal-mart are already participating in this process, so if more companies and grocery stores around the nation did the same, the amount of waste in the United States would be reduced.

With more companies emerging in the business of food waste recycling, it is beginning to look like a much more relevant solution to the food waste crisis. Glenn (1997) speaks of one business based in Dallas, Texas that “has devoted over 1,000 vehicles to the collection of food by-products from over 80,000 restaurants, butcher shops, grocery stores, and markets throughout the nation to process a total of around 4.6 billion pounds of raw material” (p. 43). On a large scale, people tend to think that an innovation as large as this would be impossible. The simple fact is that there are already businesses doing this, so the real problem is that more industries don’t play a part in this process. Through more business participation, recycling of New York City food residuals into animal feed should provide an economic, environmentally friendly alternative to landfilling.

Support for recycling food into animal feed:
This method of food residual recycling will be economically beneficial for the food animal industry. In her article on the success story in Japan, Risa Maeda (2008) reports that due to skyrocketing prices of fertilizer and animal feed, there is an “increasing demand for recycled food” (p.1). Recycled feed in Japan tends to be about fifty percent cheaper than standard animal feed, so this demand is extremely understandable. A former garbage truck driver, Hiroyuki Yakou, says in this article that the amount of food he saw being thrown away was a real waste. His drivers now take this waste from over one thousand 7-eleven stores to his factory in Tokyo to be processed into both dry and liquid animal feeds. (Maeda, 2008, p. 1). Yakou also states that people tend to like his pork better, because the feed causes the pork fat to be sweeter. He also states that the recycled feed causes his hens to lay more eggs than on the regular feed. Not only is he recycling food waste, but his company is actually making a profit, and not just on the money saved from food waste removal. Although this is an example from another part of the world, the same result would occur on a large scale in the U.S. Therefore, recycled feed will help businesses.

Recycling excess food waste into animal feed is also economically favorable for food businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries and university dining halls. Many bakeries already sell malformed baked goods for conversion into animal feed. According to Dr. Mark Huyler, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst “batches of deformed cookies and candies are ground up and converted to animal feed” (April 1, 2014, personal communication). This method of food waste disposal makes up for expected losses. This, however, is not the only example where switching over to food waste conversion has actually saved companies money. In her article on recycling food residuals into animal feed, Molly Farrell (2000) researches a Hilton Hotel at Newark Airport in New Jersey, where dumpster fees cost them about $950 a month.  Once the hotel signed up with a company called Enviro-feed, they started saving $300 per month on waste removal, since by recycling food waste they no longer fill the dumpster as quickly. The process also requires no extra work to the Hilton, as the food and beverage director states, “’[i]t’s not more labor intensive. We always have two bins in the kitchen anyway’” (Farrell, 2001. p1). Enviro-feed collects bins from the Hilton two to three times a week, which saves the hotel money and requires no extra labor costs. Recycling also doesn’t disrupt their normal routine: they simply place the food waste in bins to be recycled, rather than fill a large dumpster with it. This example demonstrates that food residual recycling is a cost efficient method of food disposal.

Conversion of food waste into animal feed will benefit the environment by reducing methane emissions. Food waste in the United States generates nearly $165 billion each year and impacts the global environment, fresh water and energy source. Therefore, new food waste disposal solution must be found (Froetchel, 2012. p. 1). Nearly 33 million tons of food waste is disposed of in landfills each year, which can account for just about twenty-five percent of the methane emissions from the United States (Froetschel, 2012. p. 1).Companies such as Quest Recycling have found innovative and environmentally friendly ways to convert food waste into animal feed. Similar to the example at the Hilton, Quest gives out bins that food businesses fill with waste, which are then taken to a local composter or anaerobic digester. There, the food waste is recycled into animal feed or compost. The really unique thing that this company does, however, is that they capture the methane gas produced by the food waste so it does not pollute the air. They then use the methane to provide electricity to local communities. This means that the company not only diverts the food waste from landfills, but helps to reduce the overall waste put into the air as well. They even take the food residuals they get and make the animal feeds they produced customized and individualized based on your animals needs, so they actually pick and change what goes into each feed.

The food animal industry may hold doubts about this method of food disposal due to fear of disease and the cost of implementation. Recycling food residuals into animal feed is not an entirely new concept: this practice has been in place for centuries. Swine are omnivorous, foraging animals. Therefore, they will eat almost anything. “Swill-feeding,” is a traditional name for feeding food scraps to swine. Recently, the practice of swill-feeding has been banned in several countries including Australia due to a correlation with foot-and-mouth disease. According to Dr. Amanda Lee (2013), “Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been identified as the single greatest threat of any disease to Australian livestock industries” (p. 2). Dr. Lee further claims that “Economic losses, as a result of an FMD outbreak in Australia, have been estimated between $7 million and $16 billion” (p. 2). With devastating consequences, it is no wonder that food producers may be skeptical towards the concept of food residual recycling.

It is important to note several differences between the proposal and swill-feeding. Swill-feeding largely refers to an unregulated practice of scrap feeding on a smaller scale. However, any organic waste that is processed for swine consumption through a company would be highly regulated. The website of Wilenta Feed Inc., a company that processes food-industry byproducts for animal feed states:

Animal feed is regulated at both the federal and the state level. Monitoring and enforcement responsibilities are fragmented over a number of different agencies.  These include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the equivalent state agencies. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. (“FAQ’s: Understanding the bakery waste to chicken feed process,” 2007).

The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates “the levels of contaminants permitted in animal feed to ensure that the food for animals and humans is safe” (Westerndorf, 2000, p. 243). Food recycling does not involve simply throwing food waste into a trough: this food would be highly regulated and processed. Dr. Mark Huyler, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst states that: “any [feed] that is given to animals first must be [pasteurized]” (April 1, 2014, personal communication). This process would essentially eliminate any potential pathogens from food waste.

There is also a concern over the potential of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as Mad Cow Disease. BSE is characterized by a mis-folding of neural proteins. This occurs after cattle consume cattle protein. After a cow in Washington State tested positive for BSE in 2003, the USDA placed a ban on sick cattle from entering the human food supply. In 2004, the FDA banned feeding cow blood, fecal matter and restaurant scraps to cattle (“BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease,” 2013) This method of food recycling would not cause BSE. In accordance to USDA policies, restaurant material containing meat would not be processed for cattle consumption (BSE (Mad Cow Disease) Ongoing Surveillance Information Center, 2012). Furthermore, food waste would not be recycled into the protein component of cattle feed. This food waste would be implemented as a supplementation for basal feed grains as the major carbohydrate source cattle. This system is already being implemented to a degree. Many food industry byproducts are currently being fed to cattle, marketed as “bakery waste feed.” “Bakery waste feed” consists of undesirable bakery products such as misshapen cookies or candies (“Ingredient Market,” 2014). Therefore, there would be no concern over transmission of BSE due to food residuals in cattle feed.
Industry owners may question the cost of implementation of food residuals as animal feed. Dr. Huyler states “large scale food industries will not want to pay to heat and process food” (April 1 2014, personal communication). However, use of food processing companies, such as Griffin Industries, eliminate this concern. These companies collect food byproducts from restaurants and bakeries, and process the waste. The product is then made commercially available as a component for animal feed. Therefore, there should be no concern over feasibility of implementing food residuals. Using a company as a middleman eliminates wasted time and money for producers.

Not only does recycled animal feed not cost anymore than traditional feed, it may also save producers money. As of 2014, bakery feed in Atlanta, Georgia costs about $300 per ton. In contrast, corn – the gold standard for animal feed – currently costs about $210 per ton (2014, “Ingredient Market” p. 21). Therefore, producers may view it as economically inefficient to use bakery feed as a significant component of animal feed. However, the market prices of basal feed grains, such as corn, are highly variable when compared to bakery feed. Corn in Atlanta, Georgia currently costs $5.95 per bushel, however, according to Farmdoc at the University of Illinois, in 2012 that price was at nearly $7.00 per bushel. However, the price of bakery feed remains fairly consistent. The price of basal feed grains varies greatly because they are dependent on uncontrollable factors such as weather, whereas bakery prices are relatively stable. Therefore, supplementing animal feed with bakery feed will allow producers to pay a more predictable and consistent amount for animal feed.
Restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries may be hesitant about implementing this system due to fear of economic losses. However, this system could actually be cheaper for food industries. Companies such as Wilenta Feed Inc., state that “[food-industries] can cut disposal costs at [least] 30%…vs. paying for regular disposal” (Wilenta). The economic benefits of this system can also be seen in the results of the Hilton Hotel at Newark Airport in Elizabeth, New Jersey. According to their manager, the hotel saves“$250 to $300/month compared to traditional waste disposal.” Therefore, it is economical to employ this method of food disposal.

Food waste disposal may also a potential source of income for businesses. When bakeries produce a batch of inferior quality product, such as deformed cookies or candies, these products would often go straight to the trash. However, these products could be sold to be processed for animal feed. Dr. Huyler states that “commodity brokers buy and process components of bakery feeds” (April 1 2014, personal communication). Therefore, not only would food waste recycling not cost extra, it could also bring in extra revenue and cut business losses.

Implementing food recycling:
Legislation was essential in banning organic waste from landfills and it is critical to implementing food residual recycling in New York City. Ideally, at least some portion of industry food waste should be required to go into animal feed. Tax-incentives should be given to animal producers who use recycled feed. These include tax-exemptions for recycling equipment, and tax deductions. These types of incentives could be applied to food recycling, to aid food residual recycling companies and feed producers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), twenty-five states have implemented tax-incentives to business owners for recycling. However, no state currently provides incentives for food waste recycling.  Tax deductions could also be given to animal producers who include a certain percentage of recycled food matter in their feeds. In Oregon, businesses that manufacture products using recycled material already receive tax benefits. According to an article in Resource Recycling magazine:

Oregon’s business energy tax credit was changed in 1993 from giving a credit primarily to collectors to giving the credit to businesses using recovered materials in the manufacture of new products. The former facilitates the recovery process, while the latter helps spur the creation of new markets for recovered materials. (Sparks, 1998, p. 3)

A similar tax-incentive system could be applied to producers of animal feed. Tax exemptions could be offered to animal feed producers who include a portion of recycled matter in their feedstuffs. This would motivate producers to create their animal feed from residuals and put pressure on the food industries to provide a supply of food waste. Current methods of aluminum recycling demonstrate how recycling can contribute to a supply/demand chain. The automotive industry currently has a high demand for aluminum, as “[internal combustion engine vehicles] are the largest consumer of aluminum cast alloys” (Hatayama et. al, 2012). Recycled aluminum is cheaper and in higher supply than pure aluminum. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 1993). Therefore, the automotive industry creates a high demand for recycled aluminum. The economic efficiency of food recycling, combined with tax incentives could create a similar demand for food waste within the animal feed industry.

In order to create a sustainable future, it is imperative that new methods for food recycling be implemented. Landfilling is not a long-term solution for disposing of waste. The Newark Hilton Hotel, Hiroyuki Yakou’s business and the success of companies such as Wilenta Feed and Enviroquest are solid examples of this solution already in actions. If cities and states such as San Francisco, New York City, Massachusetts and Connecticut also implement this method of food recycling, they will economically benefit food industries, animal producers and animal feed producers. Furthermore, this form of recycling will fulfill the ultimate goal of these landfill bans: to eliminate landfill based methane emissions, thereby reducing the United State’s contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases.

BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease. (2013, February 21) Retrieved from the Center for Disease Control:

BSE (Mad Cow Disease) Ongoing Surveillance Information Center (2012, April 26) Retrieved from:

Buzby, J., Wells, H. & Bentley, J. (2013) ERS’s food loss data help inform the food waste discussion. Retrieved from:

FAQ’s: Understanding the bakery waste to chicken feed process (2007). Retrieved from:

Froetschel, M. (2012) Recycling food waste for cattle feed. Retrieved from the University of Georgia:

Glenn, J. (1997) Nutrient niches: Marketing food residues as animal feed. Biocycle, 38(4), 43-49. Retrieved from Ebscohost.

Hatayama, H. (2012) Evolution of aluminum recycling initiated by the introduction of next-generation vehicles and scrap sorting technology. Resources, conservation and recycling. 66(1), 8-14. DOI:

Henricks, M. (2012) More state ban organic waste in landfills. Retrieved from:

Ingredient Market (2014, February 3). Feedstuffs, p.21

Lee, A. (2013) Swill Feeding Primefact 637(2) p. 1-2. Retrieved from:

Maeda, R. (2008) Japan feeds animals recycled leftovers. Reuters. Retrieved from:

Sparks, K. (1998) Tax credits: An incentive for recycling. Resource Recycling Magazine. Retrieved from:

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1993) Markets for Recycled Aluminum. Solid Waste and Emergency Response. 1-29 Retrieved from:

Westendorf, M. (2000) Food waste to animal feed. Iowa State University Press.

Webb, K. (2014, Jan 8). Don’t feed food scraps (swill) to pigs. Retrieved from:



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  1. sir
    I am Bangladeshi. I am very much interested to set up such production plant after reading this report.
    But can you tell me how much money is needed to set up.

  2. Sir
    I am athul varghese, from india. I am interested to start a cattle feed production unit. is it possible to make cattle feed using chicken meat waste. and also I want know about the machines required for this process…

  3. Hello, you used to write magnificent, but the last several posts have been kinda boring?
    I miss your tremendous writings. Past few posts are just a little bit out
    of track! come on!

  4. It seems like every day I’m hearing about a new way in which we’re damaging our atmosphere. It makes me sad to find out about all of the damage we’re causing – especially to our atmosphere. I’ve been doing plenty of reading over the past eighteen months or so, and I was probably most surprised to discover that the Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that the air inside of the average home in the United States is even two to five times dirtier than the air outside. If you combine this with the data that healthy adults can handle to 70,000 liters of air daily, it seems like a indicator for worry regarding the ongoing pollution of our atmosphere. How can we expect to stay healthy – no matter how well we try to live and take care of our bodies – if we are continuously taking in gases and contaminants?

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