University of Minnesota: Upcycled animal feed creates sustainable solution for food waste

Up to 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste each year, with heavy loss occurring between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Throughout the winter holidays, the amount of trash produced increases by 25 percent, with food making up the largest category of that waste in the United States, according to the Ecology Center.

Across the country, animal scientists and entrepreneurs are searching for solutions to address this issue by turning food waste into animal feed using thermal processing.

Gerald Shurson, an animal science professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, is available to provide expert comment on upcycling valuable nutrients from byproducts produced by the grain milling, meat packing and milk processing industries in order to create pig feed.

Gerald Shurson, Ph.D.

“If we’re going to feed a growing population of people, we must first do a better job at preventing food waste and ultimately the food waste that can’t be prevented must be recycled to the highest possible value, which is feeding it to animals.”

“When you invest so many resources, including energy (carbon), protein (nitrogen), phosphorus, and water into producing a pig that’s at market weight, and it doesn’t go for human consumption, that’s a tremendous loss of not only income and revenue for farmers, but also valuable nutrients that could have been consumed by hungry people.”

“We obtained great results showing that the feeding value of several food waste sources is equal to, or exceeds, traditional ingredients like corn and soybean meal for pigs, which could repurpose food waste from being an enormous environmental burden into a valuable resource in pig diets.”

Gerald Shurson is an animal science professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and an Extension educator. His areas of research include life cycle assessment of feed ingredients, biosecurity of feed ingredient supply chains, applied swine nutrition and management, and nutrient recycling.

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