Ovtene: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Ovtene is a packaging technology company that was inspired by the protection provided by an eggshell, which extends the shelf life of food products while maintaining their sensory characteristics and freshness.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Ovtene products were launched in Italy in 2008, and extended their reach into most of Europe by 2015. These products became available in North America in 2016. 

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

In 2005, Alberto Tomasini was troubled by how swiftly certain foods became less palatable, dried out, deteriorated, and eventually became inedible. Inspired by the functions of the egg he began researching at the University of Udine Food Sciences in Italy, and eventually developed the material known as Ovtene. This material has the capacity to keep nearly any perishable food item fresh for much longer by retarding bacterial and mold growth.

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After being highly successful in Italy, the product moved into other European countries for grocery and food production packaging. In 2012, we began thinking of North America, the next largest producer of fine foods and its consumption. In 2016, after much positive exploratory research of the North American market, the FDA approved the product, at which point we launched six of our products into the grocery and food procure markets in the USA.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Providing a sensible alternative to paper and plastic packaging, that extend the shelf life naturally with a much lower environmental footprint. Ovtene utilizes 60% less plastic than traditional packaging and neither water nor trees are consumed in its construction.

For a bit more information, take a look at their feature on Deli Market TVsaynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-4

5. How do you measure success?

Initially we look for successful independent testing evaluations followed by positive customer feedback and retention. When our grocery accounts customers begin asking for Ovtene by name and when food producers tell us that their products get to market fresher than before, we know we are onto something.

The next level of success is measured by actual sales and penetration into the many other uses of Ovtene. As well as, when the end user realizes the nutritional value of color, smell and taste of their food that is preserved with our product, unlike any other packaging.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

We learned from food producers and customers that Ovtene can keep products fresh that we hadn’t even thought to test before, such as citrus, floral and herbs. We also learned that Ovtene could be used to overcome the Van der Waals forces of clumping in powders when packaged. Cheese producers we discovered use Ovtene in the aging process as well as the final packaging for market. We also learned that many opportunities exist from Ovtene as it can be placed into stiff containers. In addition, we learned that OTR or the oxygen transmission rate was perfect for packaging fish as recommended by the FDA.

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The pouches are more popular in the US than in Europe. And people like to see the product, so windows need to be an option in many packaging applications. Most of all, people like to do what is easiest and change is difficult, and is viewed as a personal risk for users to initiate. But, they implement the product if they see that significant savings can be attained.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

With great products comes the adrenaline of trying to do too much all at once. Stay focused and tackle the markets that you know work. The rest will fall into place. FDA and USDA approvals were important recognitions, but were an extensive process. 

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Thermoforming and injection molding, and the introduction of the next generation of Ovtene, which we call OvteneActive. EU patents are approved for this even more protective form of Ovtene.

We believe that Ovtene packaging will increase the shelf life throughout the production and distribution chain. Ovtene can help bring fresh food to under served communities and decrease food waste due to spoilage. Ovtene can decrease the risk of bacterial contamination in food and beyond.

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9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Appetizer: Fresh Ccup Carpaccio, cooked in lemon, pepper and olive oil.
Dinner: Barramundi, Australian Sea Bass, grilled plain served with a Sicilian Caponata.
Dessert: Almond Biscotti and Vin Santo (aged 10 or more years).

Salvatore Giglia, representative of Ovtene in North America

National Spotlight: South Korea

Most recent estimate of annual food waste: 4.82 million tonnes in 2014

South Korea is home to one of the world’s most innovative national strategies for fighting food waste: charging its inhabitants to dispose of food waste. To use organic waste disposal bins, residents have to either pay per garbage bag or, as of 2012, according to the weight of their waste (explained below). This year alone, the price of the specialty garbage bags has gone up 30% to provide extra incentive to reduce household waste.

koreaThe “volume-based waste fee” aka pay per trash bag system was introduced in 1995. Within 10 years of the system’s implementation, South Korea’s recycling rate had increased from 15.4% to almost 50%, according to a policy bulletin from the Ministry of Environment in 2006. The government has continued to include food waste as its pursued further recycling reforms, including banning urban-generated food waste from landfills in 2005 and announcing the RFID system in 2012. Under the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, residents have to swipe special ID cards to open mechanized disposal bins so that they can throw out their waste. With each transaction, the bin recalculates the weight of its contents, and the disposer is billed once a month according to his or her waste contribution.

Unsurprisingly, the success of these measures over just a couple years has received international praise. According to the Strait Times, daily aggregate food waste in Seoul decreased from 3,300 tonnes to 3,181 tonnes between 2012 and 2014, and the city government is aiming to cut that to 2,318 tonnes per day by 2018. Household and restaurant food waste have fallen by 30% and 40%, respectively, PSFK reported earlier this month.

korea food2The Korean government’s focus on food waste came after years of ecological negligence, for lack of a better term. Even until 2013, most of the country’s organic waste was processed in sewage plants and then dumped into the ocean. The ‘gray water’ produced by the high liquid content of the waste devastated coastal marine life and even began leaching into soil. Although the government joined the London Convention against marine pollution in 1993, the ban on food wastewater dumping wasn’t enacted until 20 years later. Fortunately, most food waste today is recycled into compost, animal feed, or biofuel, largely thanks to government subsidies to those recycling facilities.

A final fun fact: in response to the anti-food waste trend, the company Smart Cara has started manufacturing domestic food waste processors. The appliances grind food waste into a powder that can be utilized as fertilizer or cooking fuel. With the rising fees for residential food waste disposal, sales of the processors tripled between 2013 and 2015 and continue to climb.

Kudos, Korea! 음식물 쓰레기에없는 말.

-Eva

 

Other consulted sources:

South Korea: Ban on Dumping of Food Wastewater in the Ocean Comes into Force (Library of Congress)

South Korea: Cutting Back on Food Waste (Pulitzer Center)

South Korea’s food waste reduction policies (Innovation Seeds)

Straight from the Source – Reflections on Sustainable Food

What is a sustainable food system? 

Often sustainable food systems and local food systems are considered to be the same thing. They’re not. The journey food takes from farm to table is complex and requires coordination at every scale, from local to global.

Local food has its place. There are programs in Kenya, written up by Rockefeller Foundation, that describe the role local food growing plays in reducing local unemployment and boosting secure access to food. There are great stories of community gardens in cities around the world that provide healthy fruits and veg for local residents. There are reams of unused land in cities slated for development, somewhere in the distant future, which could be used for raised bed gardens to grow local food at no detriment to the planned commercial projects. These opportunities need to be recognized and acted on.

On the other hand, there are returns to “economies of scale” that it make it cheaper, and sometimes more energy efficient, to process a large amount of things in one place. That might mean that it is more resource efficient to grow things far away from a city than it would be for everyone to grow their own.

The trend towards economies of scale in American-agriculture-gone-global have led to people feeling completely estranged from their food. And the “just-in-time” supply chain management principles that have been applied to food supply mean that most cities have very little storage of fresh food. Should there be a large scale disruption to the supply chain – such as what happened in New York City during Hurricane Sandy– cities can easily be left without food.

saynotofoodwaste.supplychain.food.sustainable.green.future.nowaste.2More research is needed to identify and publicize opportunities for efficient local food growth. At the same time, we need to shed light on the supply chains that bring us food from abroad and alerts us to vulnerabilities in those supply chains.

Where does our food come from? 

Most of the time, this is a question that many people can’t answer. But the answer matters, and may be a matter of life and death. The Guardian and other news sources uncovered that slave labor was used to ruthlessly trawl the oceans to provide shrimp feed, devastating both the people and the environment involved. We are forced to remember that every dollar is a vote, and our buying decisions affect what type of world we live in.

A company called Provenance is developing a methodology that companies could use to keep auditable records of their supply chains, and communicate with the public who has touched their products on their way to market. This will help us understand the global implications of the cheap food we enjoy, and give people agency in choosing which business practices they will support with their money.

On the local front is Caleb Harper, head of MIT’s Open Agriculture movement, who proposes that we open-source our knowledge of how to grow food. If his food computers are built and distributed through the country, there is the potential to overhaul our way of educating young people about where food comes from and what factors help it to thrive.

And of course no discussion of food sustainability is complete without a serious discussion of how we deal with food waste. Organizations such as the Food Recovery Network and Imperfect Produce are working to connect food that would go to waste with hungry people. It only makes sense.

Choose with your Chompers

These are important ideas to have on the table. The way forward is not clear, but we can each play our part by thinking and talking about the supply chain of our food. Keep an eye out for innovative ideas like the Food Recovery Network and support them when you can. And think twice about why your chicken is so cheap.

By Nathan Suberi





Bite sized wisdom: stick to the core

 

Have you seen a tree blowing in the wind? A willow swaying on the banks of a creek, with the leaves moving, jumping, curving left and right, following the wind patterns.

While the leaves sway, the core of the tree is sturdy. Its branches are flexible and ready to face all incoming weather. Its trunk goes deep into the roots connecting to the Earth’s core, a place of strength that’s not visible to the eyes because it’s deep within.

That’s where all confidence comes from, a hidden place of power. Coming from a self that’s connected to the environment around. A self that knows to live in the moment, feeding off the surrounding energy. With time, we begin to understand things by collecting all life’s moments and analyzing them for a deeper knowledge. Not just coasting through life’s day to day events, but going deeper and drawing patterns of our actions.

tree.roots.strength.information.life.love.forward.saynotofoodwaste.learn.share.1Right now we are feeding off the energy around, but it doesn’t mean we’re feeding off the right energy. Having stopped feeding off the energy of our environment, we are now feeding off the energy of distractions. A glow of a dark screen as a new text message comes in, a red number on top of Facebook messenger, or an orange heart on a lovely photo. Distractions are addicting and they’re everywhere, but they’ll forever stay a distraction.

What really matters though is self actualization, self realization, self love and analysis. The roots of a tree begin in a seed. Its identity forever hidden inside Earth. By knowing who we are, learning to empower ourselves, and being kind to ourselves we become flexible for we will always believe in our own strength. Whichever way the situation may turn, we will always be true to the core principles that hold us up.

We develop these core principles with experience, trial and error, and constant innovation. By picking three or four to stick to, we adopt the ones that resonate with us. They can be either exercising, making a smoothie, trying to keep a promise, etc.

To be successful in life you have to first tap into yourself and find your hidden strength. If you stick to those values, even if pushed and pulled, you’ll never lose your bearings. Let’s pick a destination to follow, wherever it may lead. To do so, follow your heart, it regenerates itself and powers your whole body. It has wisdom to share, so listen in.

These ups and downs can shift through the day, but at the end of it we are who we are. So let’s make sure that we have a good core to grow on.

Happy developing!
Hokuma

Grocery Stores and Expiration Dates, Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, as the two of us were grocery shopping, my mother came across several packages of smoked salmon stamped with ‘Use By’ dates from the day before. She eagerly snatched up three packages and, when we were checking out, tried to negotiate with the cashier to sell them to her at a 50% discount. She knew that the fish were still safe but would probably be thrown out at the end of the day, so she argued that the store would be better off making a reduced sale than getting nothing at all and tossing perfectly good fish. appetizer salmon canapesThe flustered cashier quickly called over her supervisor, who told us that they could make no deals. When my mother asked, “But what are you going to do with it? Isn’t it sad to have to throw it away?” the supervisor assured us that it wouldn’t be thrown out, just “sent back.” My mother accepted her defeat and didn’t buy the salmon, unwilling to pay full price. However, we were both very skeptical about the ‘sent back’ idea.

First off, I don’t even know whether the supervisor was telling the truth. She might have been frazzled and blurted out a lie, unwilling to admit either ignorance or the shameful reality that the fish would go to waste. More importantly, if unsold fish does get sent back to the manufacturer, I doubted that would be is a better fate. Ideally, the ‘old’ fish would be put to some other use, such as making salmon cream cheese or at least cat food – but my knowledge of the wastefulness of the food industry leaves me pessimistic. The return would probably just delay the inevitable disposal of the fish. In fact, the extra step just seemed like a waste of energy via transportation.

Curious as to what happens when supermarkets return food to manufacturers, I decided to investigate the practice as well as my specific grocery store’s policy. Unfortunately, I mainly found articles about customers returning groceries and what generally happens to expired food in stores. For instance, retailers can get rid of their unwanted food products by selling them to salvage grocery stores, which resell safe-but-(officially)-outdated items at reduced prices, or by donating them to food banks. Nowhere could I find detailed information about stores returning outdated products to their sources. The most relevant result came from Inbound Logistics Magazine, which says that “many food manufacturers and retailers set up local donation programs to deal with saleable returns and procedures for destroying expired product.” Destroying expired product – exactly as I’d suspected.

store1On the other hand, my grocery chain’s website vaguely describes its commitment to sustainability and claims that at least 90% of its ‘unsellable’ items are donated, reused, or recycled. Recycling, I assume, means composting; so, while it still saddens me when edible food goes uneaten, I’m glad that the company focuses on avoiding landfills. The stores have also been phasing out unrecyclable packaging materials.

A week after the salmon experience, my dad told me that he had pointed out some outdated products to an employee at the same store and was told that it would be donated to a local soup kitchen. As with most food retailers, the donating vs. reusing vs. disposing decision seems to depend on the type of food at stake. People tend to be more cautious about reselling seafood, meat, or dairy products because they are at high risk for contamination, whereas something like stale bread is pretty safe and easy to repurpose. Still, I am disappointed in the store’s obstinacy about the smoked salmon. If only there were customer waivers reading, I will sue neither this store nor the manufacturer for selling me this fish. I suppose that is the unspoken agreement made when shopping at salvage stores.

The more consumer concern voiced about food waste, the more pressure is put on grocery stores to adopt sustainable practices. Make a point of buying outdated items, check out salvage stores, and look into your local retailers’ donation policies.

Eva

PS: See Hokuma’s article for more info.

Food Sustainability: Words to Know

At Say No to Food Waste, we talk about food and environmental ethics a lot and don’t always take the time to define the phrases we use. Sure, we have some posts entirely devoted to things like “nose to tail eating,” but there are other phrases that we use off-handedly. Moreover, there are lots of words that are seemingly synonymous – like organic and natural – that actually have very specific connotations, and it can be difficult to keep all these terms straight. We’ve compiled this little sustainability vocabulary cheat-sheet to help you learn about and navigate the world of ethical food.

Cage-free: If a carton of eggs is labeled ‘cage-free,’ that means that the hens were raised in a hen house rather than in battery cages. In battery cages, chickens are penned so close together that they can’t even spread their wings. While the cage-free label means that the animals were raised slightly more humanely, it unfortunately doesn’t ensure that they got much space, as hen houses can also be densely packed. Similarly, free-range eggs come from chickens raised in hen houses that also provide access to the outdoors – but that doesn’t guarantee outdoor time for every hen. The system isn’t perfect, but cage-free and especially free-range egg options are better than their factory-farm-sourced alternatives.

Composting

Composting: Collecting organic waste to use it as fertilizer. In addition to weeds, fallen leaves, and grass clippings, compost can include food scraps, such as rotten produce, fruit rinds and cores, coffee grounds, moldy baked goods, and crushed eggshells. Composting is a great way to utilize inedible or unappetizing food to sustain soil rather than just throwing it out. Moreover, it keeps waste out of landfills, which are literally massive piles of garbage expected to disintegrate over time.

Doggy-bag: The English colloquialism when asking to take food home from a restaurant. It differs from ‘takeout’ in that it only applies to leftovers: you wouldn’t go to a Domino’s and order a pizza in a doggy bag. While the phrase implies that the food is going to be fed to a pet instead of eaten later by the diner, doggy-bagging is just an easy way to prevent waste and get your money’s worth out of your meal.

Farm to Fork/Table: Another term for the local food movement, which promotes buying food from regional producers because it’s fresher, doesn’t require the same amount of energy to be preserved and transported, and is otherwise generally assumed to be produced sustainably. This assumption comes from the idea that local farmers don’t use GMOs or hormones, keep their animals in factory farm conditions, or raise their crops on pesticides because, unlike national suppliers, they don’t have to produce mass quantities to send across the country. Many people also choose to ‘buy local’ to support their region’s economy.

Food Bank: Charitable organizations that collect food to provide it to people struggling with food insecurity (see below) for free. They typically act as middle-men between the restaurants, bakeries, stores, or farms that have donated the food and groups, such as soup kitchens, that then give or serve it to those in need. Donated foods are usually frozen (and then prepared by the soup kitchen) or non-perishable.

Food Insecurity: The state of not having reliable access to a steady supply of nutritious food. Food-insecure people aren’t necessarily starving, but the poor quality of food that they can afford can still lead to malnutrition. Food security is a question not just of personal income but of location: lots of low-income or minimally-populated areas don’t offer affordable, fresh produce so much as fast food joints or convenience stores selling heavily-processed packaged foods. A huge ethical paradox plaguing our world is that thousands of tons of edible produce gets thrown out when it could be feeding thousands of people suffering from food insecurity.

coffee beansFair-Trade: Fairtrade International puts its label on food products to indicate that they have met the organization’s lengthy labor and sustainability standards. The labor regulations are meant to ensure that workers producing the food haven’t been exploited, while the main environmental prerequisite is a pledge to reduce carbon emissions. Coffee and chocolate are the two products most commonly associated with fair-trade because their farmers are frequently exploited due to the high global demand and a lack of strong national labor laws.

Freegan: Someone who scrounges for edible food in dumpsters, usually behind restaurants or grocery stores, to make a statement about food waste. What differentiates a freegan from a regular dumpster-diver is that the former is primarily motivated by ethics whereas the latter is typically desperate for food due to poverty. Freegans highlight the fact that millions of tons of perfectly good food get thrown out before they even reach consumers due to excessively cautious health standards or the obsession with freshness.

GMOs: In terms of food, genetically-modified organisms are products that come from plants or animals whose DNA has been artificially manipulated. The goal of genetic engineering is usually to improve food’s nutritional content, to make the organisms resistant to specific viruses and/or pesticides, or to increase crop yield. There is a lot of controversy surrounding GMO’s, mainly the question of whether they cause long-term health effects due to the fact that the food has been altered unnaturally. Those concerned should look for “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” labels.

Locavore: Someone who “only” eats locally-sourced food (see ‘farm to table’).

Nose to tail: To quote my aforementioned article, “nose-to-tail refers to the practice of eating as much of an animal as possible to minimize waste.” So, in addition to traditional cuts of muscles and fat, animal organs, entrails, and extremities are prepared as food. Nose-to-tail can be used to describe the range of food offered by a butcher or chef or willing to be eaten by a consumer.

produce onionsOrganic: Officially, organic foods are those that haven’t been subject to any synthetic manipulation. While both are free of artificial flavoring and coloring, preservatives, genetic manipulation, and radiation, foods labeled as organic or natural differ in that the latter don’t tell you anything about the kinds of pesticides, fertilizers, or hormones used. For instance, crops can be considered organically raised if they were fertilized with compost or manure but not with chemicals, whereas natural foods include both.

Sustainability: Environmental sustainability refers to engaging in practices that don’t squander the planet’s resources at a rate at which they can’t replenish themselves. When it comes to food, it essentially means raising crops and animals in an environmentally- and ethically-responsible way. Sustainable agriculture includes practices like crop rotation to prevent soil depletion, biological pest control so that chemical insecticides don’t contaminate groundwater, and managing animal manure so that it doesn’t pile up and release excessive greenhouse gases. Since there are no industry-set guidelines to certify food as ‘sustainable,’ consumers can’t check for any labels that confirm a product’s claim to sustainability.

Vegan: A person who doesn’t eat any animal products: dairy, meat, seafood, eggs, honey, and most gelatin are all no-no’s. Vegetarians, on the other hand, just don’t eat meat or seafood, while pescatarians do eat fish but not meat. People usually elect these lifestyles based on ecological concerns, animal welfare ethics, and/or religion.

Join the food conversation!

Eva

Bliss

Today, I have no news, science, or advice to share. All I want to do is rave about the sustainable paradise I’ve been in these last two weeks, so pardon this post if you don’t like reading personal blogs.

editDSC006092I’ve been living with a German couple, longtime family friends, for the last couple of weeks in a small village near Frankfurt. Don’t let the word ‘village’ fool you: it’s not a rustic, technology-barren settlement of self-reliant farmers. It’s just one of several small, suburb-type towns peppering the Hesse countryside. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, with vast crop fields and pastures surrounding the towns and the highway stretches between them. Everything is quaint and simple but not lacking modern luxuries like gyms, convenience stores, restaurants, etc. The best part, though, is the food.

My hosts are all about sustainable and healthy food. Their garden is currently full of tomatoes, blackberries, currants, apples, and pears, and I can tell from their massive supply of homemade preserves and jams that they grow many other fruits throughout the year as well. They store most of their food in the refrigerator and freezer to extend its shelf life, and they buy bread in just the right quantities so that they can keep the loaf at room temperature and still finish it before it starts molding. My host-dad also boasts about how much locally-produced food he can buy at the store, namely honey and cheese, and insists on only buying meat or fish that is certified ‘bio’ – organic. He even shares my aversion to added sugars! Instead of buying sugary granola mixes and flavored yogurts, we make our breakfasts using unsweetened bio yogurt and mixing spelt, flaxseeds, chopped nuts, homegrown fruit, and other flavorful additions like coconut shavings. Oh, and anything inedible is composted, not thrown in the garbage.DSC00664

Yes, this is the life I want! Buying and eating locally and organically as much as possible, minimizing processed food in my diet, and preventing waste. My hosts don’t eat nose to tail, but they don’t eat that much meat, either, and at least that which they do eat is sustainably raised. This has been a wonderful way to conclude my summer and segue into my next adventure: being in Spain for the semester!

I’ll make sure not to neglect my blog duties, no worries.

Eva

Nose to Tail Eating: Showing Appreciation and Preventing Waste

As my sister and I were strolling through a food and drink festival in Germany, we started talking about how weird it is that Westerners find it quite normal to eat some animals – pigs, cows, birds, sheep, deer, goats, fish – but not reptiles, insects, or mammals such as dogs or cats. This turned into a conversation about what parts of animals are most commonly eaten and what each of us would be willing to eat. Naturally, I ended up mentioning my support for nose-to-tail eating.

nosetail cutsNose-to-tail refers to the practice of eating as much of an animal as possible to minimize waste. Yes, that includes things like bones, genitalia, and heads. That may repulse some people, but the ethical implications are worth considering. If an animal is already going to die for the sole sake of human consumption, isn’t it only fair to use its body for all its worth, rather than cut out a few slabs and then dump the rest of the carcass? Not only is that a waste of a lot of potential food, but, in my opinion, it is extremely disrespectful to the animal.

In my experience, people typically prefer to eat animal flesh and fat over entrails and organs – known as offal in the culinary world – because that is what they have been raised to consider ‘acceptable’ meat. Of course, there are many logical reasons to be squeamish eating certain body parts. Mine is primarily a gastronomic concern: brains, eyeballs, and many other organs just seem like they would be a highly unpleasant texture to eat, regardless of their actual flavor. That might sound heartless, but it’s true. Hygiene can also be a large cause for worry when it comes to eating, say, bladders or kidneys, which have held bodily excretions. However, most people just find it gross or morally wrong to eat a creature’s hearts, brains, or eyes; perhaps because they represent the animal’s soul or the windows thereto.

meat grocery storeFor a subsistence farmer, I think trying to eat nose to tail would be a pretty logical decision solely for the economic reason of making the most of what you have. For the average grocery store shopper, though, it just depends on your personal comfort zone. Since we buy individual cuts of meat, not whole animals, we can afford to be selective. Still, as more butchers and chefs embrace the nose-to-tail idea to encourage sustainability, it is worth experimenting a little. After all, fewer animals would have to be killed if people were willing to substitute some traditional cuts of meat in their weekly diets with less-conventional parts. As a starting point for the inexperienced, oxtail, beef cheek, and pig’s ears are probably easier to swallow than, say, haggis, a traditional Scottish entrée that involves stuffing a sheep’s stomach with a mixture of offal, oatmeal, and suet, or Rocky Mountain Oysters, which, despite the name, consist of deep fried cattle or sheep testicles.

meat funnyDue to our society’s obsession with convenience, I doubt that buying a whole or half of an entire animal for food will ever be the norm. It requires a lot of time and culinary know-how to be able to prepare all the different kinds of flesh and offal that a beast has to offer. Still, hopefully the nose-to-tail movement will keep gaining ground and bringing us closer to a point where as little as possible from each animal is wasted.

Eva

PS: here is an excellent segment on meat and the nose-to-tail movement from National Public Radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Three Tips for Buying Local on a Budget

When it comes to buying produce, I try to get as much as possible from farmer’s markets or local grocers rather than supermarkets. Not only do smaller growers tend to raise their crops more organically (i.e. with fewer pesticides or hormones) than massive corporations, but you also get the comfort of knowing that the food hasn’t had to travel alci seasonalthousands and thousands of miles to get to your table. That saves hundreds of gallons of fuel that would have otherwise been spent cooling and transporting the food across the country, much less the world. Not to mention that the local food is much tastier because it’s fresh.

The one critique I keep hearing when it comes to locally-sourced food is price. When I encourage my friends to shop at our city’s farmer’s market, they typically say something like, “I love the farmer’s market, but it’s so expensive! How can you afford to go there every week?” Without going into the economics of it, I’ll admit that local food tends to be less cheap because small producers don’t have the kinds of business models that allow big manufacturers to keep prices low. When grocery stores sell a pint of blueberries for $2.99, many people feel that the positives of buying local still don’t justify spending $5 for the same amount. However, there are three simple tricks you can use to buy locally and economically.

1. Browse before you buy

Since all the vendors are growing their produce in the same climate and season, most of them offer the same variety of fruits and vegetables. For the shopper, that translates into multiple price options. Just last week, I saw potatoes being sold at $3/lb., $3/pint, $4/quart, and $5/quart. Before making a single purchase, walk the entire market, make price comparisons, and then buy accordingly.

2. Remember why you’re there

It’s incredibly easy to get enticed by things like fresh breads, pastries, and nut butters, especially when samples are available, but you must resist! Try to concentrate on buying produce and whatever else you planned to buy, because treats can cost a pretty penny. The two, age-old pieces of advice ring just as true at local markets: don’t shop hungry and bring a list.

3. Try something new

market vegetablesThe farmer’s market is a great place to discover new varieties of food. This slightly contradicts my advice of sticking to a shopping list, but if you see an appealing piece of fruit or vegetable for a low price – cheaper than whatever you had planned to buy – you should go for it. Buying food that you might not yet know how to cook is a great way to expand your culinary repertoire.

I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to live near a well-publicized farmer’s market, but look around online – or just walk around your town – and you might find some good local options. Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be hard on your wallet.

Eva

Expo Milano 2015: You’ll Wish You Were There

When learning about the appalling levels of food insecurity and waste in our world, one can quickly become cynical about whether these problems will ever be resolved, especially when it seems like so few people in power are truly aware of, much less concerned with their consequences. The organizers of Expo Milano 2015, however, beg to differ. From May 1st through October 31st, the city of Milan is playing host to representatives from 145 nations and international organizations (including Oxfam, the WWF, and the UN) as they participate in a global showcase of food security presentations, proposing sustainable solutions to one of our world’s most dire crises. The theme of the expo, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,’ emphasizes the importance of international coordination in addressing issues of nutrition while respecting our planet’s resources.

Expo2Of course, the expo isn’t all work and no play. In addition to sharing their insights on food security, participating countries share their food culture with visitors through exhibits on their gastronomic traditions and samples of their cuisines. Every participant (country or organization) has its own pavilion or a space within one of the nine Thematic Clusters where it can display its exhibits based on its chosen theme. For instance, the Afghan exhibition ‘Eating for Longevity, Afghanistan Amazingly Real’ can be found in the Spices cluster and aims to rectify cultural misconceptions by showcasing the country’s local foods as well as recent advancements in hospitality and women’s rights. Some of the thematic areas are based on globally-significant foods, such as Rice, Fruits and Legumes, and Coffee, while others, like the Bio-Mediterraneum, are more conceptual, described as providing “multi-sensorial and educational experiences” to educate visitors about the history and future of food through social, cultural (i.e. artistic), technological, and ecological lenses.

Courtesy of corelanguages.com
Courtesy of corelanguages.com

For those of us who can’t make it to Milan in the next 5 months, there is an online magazine that shares photos and highlights from the expo, articles on the central topics, and interviews with various speakers (‘Expo Ambassadors’). There is also a map that shows off the creative designs of the various pavilions, clusters, and thematic areas. I highly recommend checking the site out, although I must warn that it might fill you with a painful sense of sorrow for not being able to see the expo in person. Unfortunately, I had to decline an invitation to participate in a food waste event being held there in June, but I’m sure Expo Milano 2015 will be inspiring several more of my posts here on SayNotoFoodWaste over the next few months. After all, it’s wonderful to see so many people celebrating the value of food to our world and working to make a real, global impact.

Eva

PS: The US pavilion has its own website.