Value of recovered retail food as cattle feedValue of recovered retail food as cattle feed
September 29, 2016
Recovering retail food and using it as cattle feed is developing on a large scale, with handling practices and feeding protocols being established to optimize its utility.
By MARK A. FROETSCHEL*
*Dr. Mark A. Froetschel is a retired professor with The University of Georgia department of animal and dairy science. He is a ruminant nutrition consultant.
THE U.S. wastes as much as 40% of the food it produces — at tremendous cost and environmental impact (Kinsey, 2003; Foley, 2011; Gunders, 2012). The amount of food wasted depends on the type of food (fruits, vegetables, grain products, seafood, meat and dairy) and its progression through integrated systems of production, handling, storage, processing, packaging, retail distribution and consumption.
Approximately 15% of food waste is generated during retail distribution and is of vegetable origin (fruits, vegetables and grain products). This waste stream is largely obligatory but has recoverable value (Gunders, 2012; Bosch and Sherrod, 2012).
The scale and integration of food distribution retailers and recycling systems have contributed to a paradigm shift in diverting retail food from landfills and recovering it as compost, biofuel energy or animal feed. Recovery as animal feed is the most efficient and cost-effective system. Recovered retail food (RRF) consists mainly of intact fruit and vegetable items collected after their expiration date for human consumption. This can be fed directly or after preservation as silage.
Critical control points for recovering and feeding retail food include: (1) sorting it so it does not contain or contact meat, in accordance with rules to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy in feed; (2) sorting it from non-nutritious packaging materials; (3) feeding it within three days of collection; (4) providing proper facilities for on-farm containment and feed mixing, and (5) proper sanitation of collection and containment facilities to prevent accumulation of spoiled residue and malodors.
Although RRF is best used quickly after collection, it is fermentable and can be readily preserved and fed as an ensiled product.
In 2005, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. established a goal to reduce its total waste as much as 20% by 2015 and eventually progress to zero waste (www.foodwastealliance.org/wp-content/upload/2013/11/walmart-organics-case-study.pdf).
Food waste was an important target, and industrial recycling firms were contracted to divert it from landfills into a more useful purpose with recovery value. Walmart initially partnered with Quest Resource Management to establish logistics and collect presorted food from retail food distribution in 2009. Revenue from diverting food waste from landfills was used to fund development of methods to recover its value.
Over several years, the industry evolved from concept to applications, with recognition that the best option for using RRF was livestock feed. These efforts involved intensive analytical monitoring and sponsored research on ensiling, feeding and digestibility of RRF (Froetschel et al., 2014). The initial research was sponsored by Viridiun LLC, a recycling firm developed out of a partnership with Quest in 2010, to facilitate efforts for marketing RRF as livestock feed.
The Viridiun RRF product, named Readi-Blend, consists mainly of fruits and vegetables collected weekly from several-hundred stores. In 2014, Viridiun merged with Organix Recycling LLC, the largest retail food recycling firm in the U.S. Organix Recycling started in 2009 with more than 6,000 collection sources of RRF. The firm's commercial product, marketed under the name Fruit-Plus, is similar to Readi-Blend in nutrient composition.
The industry worked with the American Association of Feed Control Officials to define RRF as an animal feed product. The following tentative definition has been adopted and should become finalized in 2016:
T40.100 Recovered Retail Food — is composed of edible human food products safe and suitable for livestock feed that are collected from retail food establishments, domestic holding facilities and domestic packing facilities. Permitted recovered retail foods are products from overstocks, lacking consumer acceptance or beyond their sell-by date, including bruised, cut or overly ripe produce (fruit and vegetables); bakery goods; eggs and dairy products. It shall be safe and appropriately labeled for its intended use and shall be free of material harmful to animals. Materials excluded from this definition include pet foods and products containing beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish or shellfish. RRF must not contain packaging materials (e.g., plastics, glass, metal, string, Styrofoam, cardboard and similar materials), flowers, potted plants or potting soil.
The recovered foods shall be collected and intermixed in secure holding containers to exclude unauthorized addition of trash, materials harmful to animals or infestation and adulteration by pests. Egg and dairy products (and other products ordinarily held at refrigerator temperatures) must be kept in cold storage until the scheduled pickup. To minimize spoilage, the recovered retail food shall be collected at least weekly or more frequently, if necessary. The establishment should have a sanitation plan in place, and the containers should be cleaned and sanitized as necessary. The collected material may be further processed or delivered as is to an animal feeding facility. The product must be handled to preserve its safety and nutritional value.
The RRF feed product contains more than 200 types of vegetables, fruits and also "fresh" bakery and dairy products. Initial feeding research focused on processing and ensiling RRF because of its high moisture content. Processed RRF ensiles readily and is well preserved at a low pH, even with a moisture content exceeding 80%.
The processed material has a slurry-like physical consistency that does not entrap air, facilitating its anaerobic fermentation.
The nutritional profile of processed RRF was recently published (Froetschel et al., 2014). These data originated from processed material sampled at cattle feeding operations over a 16-month period from 2011 to 2012 that was subjected to a standard nutritional analysis, including total digestible nutrients (TDN) predicted according to methods described in the National Research Council's (NRC) dairy nutrient recommendations (NRC, 2001). A data set was built to determine nutrient variation and value. The nutrient profile of processed RRF is reported in Table 1.
A controlled animal feeding trial using processed, ensiled RRF was conducted to determine its impact on intake, digestibility and energetics (Froetschel et al., 2014). Eight yearling Holstein steers — ranging from 500 to 800 lb. in bodyweight during the study — were used in a replicated 4 x 4 Latin square experiment.
Four dietary treatments were imposed by feeding processed, ensiled RRF at approximately 0%, 20%, 40% and 60% levels in a total mixed ration with wheat silage as a basal roughage. Experimental periods were two weeks in duration, and the trial lasted a total of eight weeks. Processed and ensiled RRF was chosen for the feeding experiment in order to control its nutrient variation. Results from the feeding trial are shown in Table 2.
The results confirmed that RRF is a highly fermentable product that is well preserved after processing and ensiling, and it is a high-moisture energy supplement with 80-90% moisture and 80-85% TDN on dry matter (DM) basis. RRF can be substituted for cereal-based concentrate in wheat silage-based total mixed rations at inclusion rates of up to 60% of the ration DM without compromising intake.
A major objective of the feeding and digestibility trial was to confirm the reported energy content of RRF as determined using laboratory analyses and prediction equations. Feeding incremental amounts of RRF to Holstein steers resulted in data that supported development of a regression equation to predict the energy content of RRF, as shown in the Figure. At a theoretical inclusion rate of 100% RRF, it was predicted to have 78.7% TDN, and this fits well with values determined by wet chemistry and NRC prediction equations shown in Table 1.
The economic replacement value (ERV) is a method for pricing feeds based on energy and protein content and market prices of corn and soybean meal (Peterson, 1932; Ely et al., 1991). The ERV is the price of a mixture of corn (X lb.) and soybean meal (Y lb.) that replaces the energy and protein in 1 lb. of feed being economically evaluated — in this case, RRF.
A prediction method was developed to determine the ERV for pricing RRF. Multivariate regression equations were used to predict X and Y. The regression equation for estimating the pounds of corn was: X = 0.79088 - 0.01005 x percent moisture + 0.000230 x percent TDN (r-square = 0.92; P < 0.01). The regression equation for estimating the pounds of soybean meal was: Y = 0.08553 + 0.00439 x percent crude protein - 0.00149 x percent moisture (r-square = 0.89; P < 0.01). The ERV was calculated as: $/lb. = [X (lb. of corn) x (corn price in $/lb.)] + [Y (lb. of 44% soybean meal) x (soybean meal price in $/lb.)].
The current ERV for RRF is predicted at $45.7 per ton based on the average nutrient content of RRF reported in Table 1 and current prices for corn and soybean meal listed in Feedstuffs for the Atlanta, Ga., market ($5.56/bu. for corn and $459.20 per ton for soybean meal). The ERV for RRF is based on its nutrient content and current prices for corn and soybean meal.
The actual price for RRF is discounted based on factors such as shrinkage, handling and supply. A byproduct feed with similar characteristics to RRF is wet brewers grains, and it is typically discounted as much as 50% from its ERV. Furthermore, farms with specialized feed mixing/processing equipment like what's found on some dairies can feed unprocessed RRF.
Lactating dairy cattle
RRF is well suited as an energy supplement for lactating dairy cattle, and it is increasingly being used on dairy farms. The relative size of dairy herds and their energy requirements support greater feeding rates and throughput of RRF than for beef herds. Also, more dairy farms are located in proximity to population centers and retail stores, which would lower RRF hauling costs.
Furthermore, dairies often have existing storage facilities (pits for wet brewers grains) and mixing equipment (vertical feed mixer wagons with hay processing capability) that complement using unprocessed RRF. It is best to store unprocessed material in a pit where it can be drained to separate it from accumulated wash water that's used to clean storage containers and trailers during pickup.
The average nutrient content and standard deviation of 11 samples of unprocessed and drained RRF taken from December 2015 to April 2016 at a dairy farm receiving product from the Atlanta market area was: 12.8% + 2.5% DM, 0.84 + 0.03 Mcal/lb. net energy of lactation, 78.6% + 2.4% TDN, 13.2% + 2.2% crude protein, 21.8% + 2.6% neutral detergent fiber, 8.0% + 1.5% fat and 9.5% + 1.9% ash.
Based on this average nutrient analysis and corn and soybean meal prices in the Atlanta market, the unprocessed RRF has a current ERV of $25.30 per ton.
When it comes to precision feeding RRF, concerns for dairies include compensating for the moisture content and nutrient variability. These concerns may be addressed by feeding RRF at a controlled inclusion rate.
RRF can be fed at up to 20% of the ration DM content while having a minimal negative impact regarding its nutrient variation or moisture content. Ration DM content and intake should be monitored and a reactive feeding protocol used when RRF is fed at higher inclusion rates. The energy content of RRF on a DM basis is relatively consistent compared to other proximate nutrients.
Feeding RRF at 20% of the ration DM as a substitute for cereal-based concentrate results in a feed cost savings of as much as $1.00 per head per day based on the current Atlanta market corn price.
Feed cost savings can also be estimated by the price of ration concentrate replaced by feeding RRF at a given farm. Feed cost savings resulting from using RRF are substantial and critical to income over feed costs at this time, given current milk prices. The opportunity to feed RRF is considerable based on its cost:benefit ratio for both the retail food and dairy industries.
The recycling industry is currently soliciting interest from dairy producers and nutrition specialists to enhance the use and market value of this novel feed product.
Bosch, P., and J. Sherrod. 2012. Don't waste a drop: Maximizing the value of food and agricultural waste streams. Rabobank Industry Note #331, September.
De la Houssaye, M., and A. White. 2012. Economics of New York City Commercial MSW collection and disposal and source separated food waste collection and composting. Coalition for resource energy. Global Green.
Ely, L.O., M.A. Froetschel, D.R. Mertens and A.J. Nianago. 1991. Economic replacement value: A computer program to teach the economic value of feedstuffs. J. Dairy Sci. 74:2774-2777.
Foley, J.A. 2011. Can we feed the world and sustain the planet? Sci. Am. 305:60-65.
Food & Drug Administration. 2012. Partnership for Food Protection/Association of Feed Control Officials. Recycled Organic waste as animal feed: A recommendation for regulatory programs to address current information gaps. www.fda.gov/downloads/ForFederalStateandLocalOfficials/FoodSafety.
Froetschel, M.A., C.L. Ross, R.L. Stewart Jr., M.J. Azain, P. Michot and R. Rekaya. 2014. Nutritional value of ensiled grocery food waste for cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 92:5124-5133.
Gunders, D. 2012. Wasted: How America is losing up to 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper. IP:12-06-B.
Kinsey, J. 2003. Emerging trends in the new food economy: Consumers, firms and science. International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium. ISSN 1098-9218 Working paper 03-4.
Peterson, W.E. 1932. A formula for evaluating feeds on the basis of digestible nutrients. J. Dairy Sci. 15:293-297.
1. Proximate macro-nutrient profile of processed recovered retail food from representative samples submitted to commercial laboratory for proximate nutrient analysis*
Crude protein, % DM
Ash, % DM
Fat, % DM
Sugar, % DM
NDF, % DM
Acid detergent fiber, % DM
Lactic acid, % DM
Acetic acid, % DM
TDN, % DM1
*Values estimated from data set of nutrient analyses of 115 samples conducted by Cumberland Valley Analytical (Hagerstown, Md.) from April 18, 2011, to Nov. 18, 2012, for Viridiun LLC. Macro-mineral content of RRF (mean % DM + SD) was: calcium (1.16 + 0.83), phosphorus (0.32 + 0.07), magnesium (0.143 + 0.04), potassium (1.73 + 0.37).
1Predicted based on based on Dairy NRC (2001).
Note: SD = standard deviation; CV = coefficient of variation (100 * standard deviation / mean); NDF = neutral detergent fiber.
2. Results from feeding incremental inclusion rates of processed ensiled RRF in total mixed rations to growing Holstein steers on intake, digestibility and energetics*
36.3 % RRF
Diet R:C ratio, %
Intake as fed, lb./daya
DM, % bodyweighta
DM digestibility, %a
*Values are least square means estimated from eight observations.
aLinear effect of treatment (P < 0.01).
Note: SEM = standard error of the mean; R:C = roughage-to-concentrate ratio; DM = dry matter; DE = digestible energy; DEI/M = Mcal of DE consumed per Mcal DE for maintenance; TDN1X and DE1X = TDN and DE adjusted by increasing DM digestibility to compensate for a 4% reduction in DM digestibility for each multiple in intake over maintenance intake (Dairy NRC, 1989).
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