Food Waste

Despite the headlines on food poverty, we throw away some 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in the UK every year, an estimated 2/3rds of this is edible. I find it strange that wasting food is not taboo.

My parents started a family just as war time rationing was coming to an end. Items such as eggs, cheese, meat, butter, lard, jams, and sweets had been rationed for over 10 years. Not only food was rationed but so was clothing, soap, coal, petrol, and paper.

My mother was an “imaginative” cook, we were taught to “Waste not – Want not”. Making and mending was part of life. We grew a lot of the food that we ate.

Globally food waste has a huge impact on climate change. The majority ends up in landfills decomposing to produce methane and it is estimated just this makes up 6-8% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing how we behave

Food waste is endemic in UK society, yet it is in our control to reduce it, but it needs a change in our approach. Reducing food waste makes environmental sense but it also makes economic and ethical sense.

Pope Francis recently said,

“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry”.

Changing how we behave and reducing food waste is a huge challenge, it will need education, it may need Government Intervention. Globally 40% of all food produced is wasted.

Food waste and the producer

Westaways use fresh UK Pork to make their sausages. It is boned ready for us to use. Our mentality is that any animal that is killed for food needs to be respected and valued. To us it is offensive and difficult to come to terms with our meat or sausages going to waste.

Our daily production planning means no waste, we make all our fresh orders and use the balance to make frozen or cooked products.

Supplying the retailers we hold off making orders until the last possible time to ensure the sausages are as fresh as they can be.

What can go wrong?

Every mistake is an opportunity to review and change. However, there are systematic issues around fresh produce that might be addressed. Here are two examples we find frustrating.

We ship around 2,500 pallets of fresh sausages a year into the UK retailers. Any delay on the roads will mean a shipment might miss its allotted “window” at a regional distribution centre. This will result in shorter shelf life when it reaches the store 24 hours later and of course it might effect “shelf edge availability”. It is understandable that the retailers generally will reject these deliveries with little chance of concession. We would welcome a commitment from retailers to accept these shipments (even at agreed discount) rather than see this food go to waste. We do know that various food charities will clear these deliveries, but sensible as this seems, rarely in our experience does the food reach those in need.

Staffing is a real issue for not just producers but also retailers. It is not just a numbers game it is also about having engaged, experienced staff. Not having these skills means “compliance” in store to established procedures is an issue. The result is stock lost in the back up chillers, rather than being on sale. This can mean short-dated stock on the shelves and the risk of waste. Store personal need to constantly check stock levels and use by dates. Could on pack barcodes be standardised to include Use By dates? If so then tills or self-scanners could be set up to automatically discount short-dated stock, this would drive customer behaviour, and in turn reduce the need for so much supervision in store and cut waste dramatically.

Food waste in the home

70% of UK Food waste occurs in the home. So here are some tips to reduce this.

1.       Plan your shopping around specific meals.

2.       Do not overbuy because it is on promotion unless you can store it.

3.       Do not overcook, get used to measuring portions.

4.       Freeze left overs.

5.       Be creative in making use of food before it goes to waste.

The management of food waste is something we can all do at home, and in our business.

In 2023 let’s all make some changes.