Fresh Ideas: Becoming wiser food stewards

Every family has a list of strongly discouraged behaviors. For my clan, the sin of wasting food was close to the top of the list. There are two logical explanations for this attitude.

My parents and grandparents endured the Great Depression, and its enforced frugality had some staying power. When there is not a lot of food to be had, the concept of “edible” expands.

The other explanation comes from being the descendant of farm families who were industrious in how they used animal and plant resources. My grandmother liked to say, “We used every part of the pig except the oink.”

My ancestors would be pleased at the renewed emphasis on reducing waste that is taking place in the food industry today.

The food processing industry in general, and fresh-cut processing in particular, sits in a unique position when it comes to attacking waste and loss. It contributes to the problem because it cuts and trims. The industry is also working to find new ways to reduce waste and find new uses for the byproducts of processing.

We dig into the topic with our story “War on Waste” (Page 8), which describes how processors, crop protection companies and industry organizations are tackling the problem.

Another arena with great potential to reduce food waste is the cold chain, where plenty of problems can arise if the chain is not maintained. One of those challenges is posed by extreme weather, such as the recent bitterly cold winter and the ongoing drought in the West. See how transportation and logistics companies are dealing with the weather challenges in our story that begins on Page 12.

Water use is an additional overriding concern in the produce industry and is at the heart of the food safety debate. Regulators are considering how best to measure the safety of irrigation water while processors work on new ways to sanitize their water. See our “Focus on Food Safety” story on Page 6 for more.

We’re also looking forward to the next United Fresh annual conference, co-located with the Food Marketing Institute convention for the next three years in Chicago. We’ll begin our annual preview of the big show in the May issue.

[email protected]Lee Dean, editorial director

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