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Food waste worries appear to vanish when diners know scraps go to compost

food waste

Diners waste far less food when they understand the implications of their actions, but a new study found that if they know the food is going to be composted instead of dumped in a landfill, they aren’t as concerned.

When composting enters the picture, educated diners waste just as much as those who haven’t learned about the consequences of food waste.

This presents a tricky situation for policy-makers figuring out how to manage food waste, because the top tactics are prevention (through education) and diversion (through composting), said lead researcher Danyi Qi, a graduate student in agricultural economics at The Ohio State University.

“When you do both, they cancel each other out; they work at cross-purposes,” said Qi, who is presenting the findings this week at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Science Associations in Chicago, Ill.

The discovery could help shape decisions by government, businesses and others looking to chip away at the vast amount of food that lands in trash cans instead of on the tables of those in need, said Qi and co-author Brian Roe, a professor of agricultural, environmental and developmental economics in the College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences and a member of Ohio State’s Food Waste Collaborative, which is exploring ways to reduce waste and create a more sustainable food system.

Qi and Roe recruited 266 students, staff, faculty and Columbus, Ohio, residents to participate in the study, which took place over two months in the summer of 2016. The participants were monitored during a meal provided by the researchers. The diners didn’t know what the study was about specifically -- just that the research team was examining eating behavior.

Participants were given informational cards with either education on the harms of food waste or on financial literacy. About half of both of those groups were told that leftovers would be composted and that it would reduce methane emissions and provide nourishment for plants. The other half were told that their uneaten food was destined for a landfill.

The participants could take as much food as they wanted in a single trip. They chose from sandwiches, chips and apple slices. Neither sharing nor doggy bags were permitted. The researchers weighed the diners’ trays after the meal to determine how much food the study subjects left behind.

Education in the absence of composting had a marked effect. The diners who had read about the harm related to waste left behind almost 77% less as a group than those who had received the financial literacy material. The educated diners were 39% more likely to clean their plates.

However, the benefits of food-waste awareness vanished when the study participants knew their uneaten food was going to a “good” place.

“We were very curious if these common policies work in harmony or in conflict,” Qi said. “It seems that if they feel that the social and environmental cost is lower, they may feel less guilty, and that may cause them to waste more.”

The trouble is that composting comes at a financial and societal cost, and policy-makers are striving to find ways to limit waste, regardless of where it will end up, Qi said.

Roe said the study results are likely to be most useful to foodservice institutions seeking ways to address waste.

“There are many new and innovative approaches being proposed to reduce food waste and to minimize its environmental impact. However, there exists little thought about whether various approaches are complementary or competitive,” he said. “This study is one of the few to consider how various approaches might interact.”

For individuals looking to be good environmental stewards, the study highlights the importance of first attempting to limit waste. Composting or donating unused food is great, but buying and preparing only what you’ll eat is better, Roe said.

In addition, “if someone else says they will do something positive with food scraps, it shouldn’t diminish your own good intentions and efforts to reduce food waste,” he said.

Union Pacific acquires Railex LLC Assets

Union Pacific announced this week it is acquiring Railex LLC's refrigerated and cold storage distribution assets in Delano, California; Wallula, Washington; and Rotterdam, New York. The acquisition does not include Railex Wine Services LLC.

Railex, a refrigerated rail service and third-party logistics leader, plays a key role in Union Pacific's Food Network, transporting fruits, vegetables, and other temperature-sensitive cargo across the U.S.

"The Railex team developed a fantastic business changing how fresh food arrives on America's tables, offering food shippers fast, reliable door-to-door rail based transportation solutions," said Brad Thrasher, Union pacific vice president and general manager – Agricultural Products. "The integration of their highly efficient cross dock facilities and logistics capabilities into Union Pacific's broader Food Network allows us to offer our customers increased access to a wider range of capacity and service solutions in a rail-centric cold chain."

Union Pacific Food Trains directly serve Railex's Delano and Wallula facilities, located in the heart of major agricultural production regions. The Food Train network provides a fast and reliable service from these growing regions to the Midwest consumer base via Chicago and further into the heart of the Northeast region via the CSX. Railex will continue managing facilities during the transition and integration of its operations with Union Pacific.


Union Pacific connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail, providing a critical link in the global supply chain. From 2006-2015, Union Pacific invested approximately $33 billion in its network and operations to support America's transportation infrastructure. The railroad's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Coal, Industrial Products and Intermodal. Union Pacific serves many of the fastest-growing U.S. population centers, operates from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways, connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major Mexico gateways.


PHARMAQ acquires fish vaccination equipment company

PHARMAQ, a business of Zoetis, announced Jan. 3 the acquisition of the Norway-based Nordland Sett Vaks, an innovator in the manufacture and marketing of high-quality vaccination machinery for the aquaculture industry.

Nordland Sett Vaks, based in Nesna, Norway, offers a wide range of fish vaccination services and sells vaccination machines to fish farming companies in Norway, the U.K. and the Mediterranean region. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“We have known Nordland Sett Vaks for a long time, and we have been very impressed with their high focus on quality and innovative solutions. We are delighted to start working even closer together with Nordland Sett Vaks and to support the company’s international expansion,” PHARMAQ president Morten Nordstad said.

Nordland Sett Vaks was established in 1995 and offers machine fish vaccination services and vaccination machines for a variety of different fish species in several markets.

“We believe PHARMAQ is the perfect partner to support our growth plans,” said Nordland Sett Vaks founders Jorn Stale Pettersen and Remy Kristian Oddoy, who both will continue to lead the company as part of PHARMAQ.

“Nordland Sett Vaks will enable PHARMAQ to offer complete vaccination solutions to our customers all over the world, and we furthermore believe that safe and efficient vaccination services will help increase the adoption of the use of vaccines in several markets,” added Svein Alexandersen, senior manager customer service for Norway and Nordics at PHARMAQ.

PHARMAQ is a global leader in vaccines and innovation for aquaculture. The company provides environmentally sound, safe and efficacious health products to the global aquaculture industry through targeted research and the commitment of dedicated people. Production facilities, administration and research and development activities are based in Norway, with subsidiaries in Chile, the U.K., Vietnam, Turkey, Spain, Panama and Hong Kong. PHARMAQ has approximately 200 employees. The company's products are marketed in Europe, North and South America and Asia.

Zoetis is a leading animal health company dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 60 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and markets veterinary vaccines and medicines, complemented by diagnostic products and genetic tests and supported by a range of services.

FDA completes implementation of medically important antimicrobial rule update

feed ingredient storage piles

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration announced Jan. 3 that it has completed the implementation of Guidance for Industry 213 (GFI #213), a process started in 2013 to transition antimicrobial drugs with importance in human medicine ("medically important antimicrobials") that are used in the feed or drinking water of food-producing animals to veterinary oversight and eliminate the use of these products in animals for production (e.g., growth promotion) purposes.

On Dec. 23, 2016, FDA released three Federal Register documents to update the "Code of Federal Regulations" (CFR) reflecting changes to most of the new animal drug applications affected by GFI #213.

FDA can now report that, as of Jan. 3, all affected drug applications have either aligned with the recommendations outlined in GFI #213, or their approvals have been withdrawn voluntarily. As a result of these changes, these products cannot be used for production purposes (like growth promotion) and may be used only under the authorization of a licensed veterinarian.

FDA said it appreciates the cooperation of the animal pharmaceutical industry for meeting its commitment to fully align all affected products with the GFI #213 recommendations. The agency acknowledges the role that a number of key stakeholders have played in helping to prepare for this important transition. This includes, but is not limited to, veterinary, animal producer and feed industry organizations, as well as various local, state and federal agencies. The success of this collaborative effort marks an important step forward for promoting antimicrobial stewardship in animals.

FDA said it realizes that some farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and others may face challenges as they adjust to these changes, and the agency is committed to continue working with stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition.

Of the 292 new animal drug applications initially affected by GFI #213, 84 were completely withdrawn. Of the remaining 208 applications, 93 for oral dosage form products intended for use in water were converted from over-the-counter to prescription status, and 115 applications for products intended for use in feed were converted from over-the-counter to veterinary feed directive status. Furthermore, production indications (e.g., growth promotion) were withdrawn from all 22 applications that included such indications for use.

The implementation of GFI #213 is a significant milestone in national efforts to address the use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals, FDA said, noting that it is committed to ongoing collaboration with key stakeholders to support antimicrobial stewardship.

Moving forward, FDA said it intends to focus its efforts on such issues as: (1) aligning antimicrobial drug products with the principles of antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings, (2) supporting efforts to foster stewardship of antimicrobials in veterinary settings and (3) assessing the effect of strategies intended to curb the emergence of antimicrobial resistance associated with the use of antimicrobial drugs in veterinary settings.

For more information about FDA’s goals and planned activities for promoting antimicrobial stewardship, see FDA’s CVM Key Initiatives for Antimicrobial Stewardship.


Additional Information:


Partnership looks to food byproducts for salt substitutes

Natural Resources Institute Finland Chicken processing byproducts may yield peptides to replace salt in foods.
Chicken processing byproducts may yield peptides to replace salt in foods.

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) and the meat and food company HKScan are conducting joint research into what food industry byproducts could be used to replace salt.

Peptides that are suitable candidates have already been tasted, LUKE said.

For Mika Tuomola, vice president of research and development at HKScan, it is self-evident that the food industry needs research partners.

“The dialogue between research and business has improved considerably in recent years. Results are produced when we can exchange ideas about what can best be ascertained through research and about what kind of information we need in the industry,” Tuomola said.

Research keeps meat on the plate? This autumn, pulled oats and other plant-based protein products have received considerable attention. Tuomola does not regard the new products as a threat to the meat industry, but, on the contrary, the diversifying range of products looks interesting to the head of research at one of the largest food companies in northern Europe.

In Tuomola’s view, however, the meat sector and its products must continually develop in order to ensure that meat remains a central part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Substituting the sodium contained in salt — which can be harmful to health — with other substances is one of the themes being studied intensively around the world. LUKE’s initial results regarding salty-tasting peptides obtained from chickens have been received with interest.

“Saltiness is an integral part of flavor in food. Many foods are, in any case, difficult to obtain in an unsalted form. Salt is sprinkled on the surface of bread too, as it tastes so delicious to us,” Tuomola said.

Substituting salt with peptides may be important for public health, too, he said.

Towards the top of the pyramid. The research utilizes the so-called side flows, which arise from the production of HKScan’s broiler products.

“We currently already make use of all side flows, but we are developing chains continuously. We regard side flows as a pyramid in which use, for example, in power production is bottom-most and production of material suitable for the pharmaceutical industry top-most. The aim is to move as high up in the pyramid as possible,” Tuomola said.

The aim is not to stop using salt completely since, in addition to flavor, salt is also important for the structure and preservation of food. A good research result that is applicable in production consists of data enabling the sodium content of meat products to be lowered while, at the same time, obtaining more benefit from side flows.

LUKE is responsible for planning and implementing the research. HKScan, on the other hand, is interested in results that have industrial applications.

HKScan has a number of research partners. Projects with various universities and technical institutes are underway. Tuomola pointed out that another important part of research is the development of pilot and industrial-scale methods — a link from laboratory to production.

“For consumers, one of the most visible products resulting from research is Rypsiporsas rapeseed pork, which is a registered brand. The majority of research, however, is not visible to the consumer. Results have been applied to a considerable extent in developing animal feeding and feeds, in enhancing the efficiency of the industry’s processes and in reducing the carbon footprint. These aspects should be highlighted more and reported to consumers,” Tuomola said.

Competition and continuity. HKScan operates throughout the Baltic region of Europe, so research collaboration is international. Competition is also tough, and it was no accident that LUKE was selected to conduct the peptide research.

“A research institute must develop its own profile in order to be a credible and interesting partner. The ‘everything for everyone’ approach does not work,” Tuomola said. He hopes that in the future, food research also will remain at the top of LUKE’s portfolio of expertise.

“Food is a key element of the bio-economy; food scientists invented the term bio-economy already long before politicians,” Tuomola said.

Tuomola also emphasized the continuity of cooperation. Public funding is needed to secure research facilities in order to ensure that not all activities become short-term project work. It should be easy for data resources and experts to be utilized also after the project has ended.

HKScan wants to collaborate with new kinds of research experts, too.

“Research institutes provide little research on, for example, consumer behavior. More would be welcome,” Tuomola said.

Kansas State partnership to aid soybean commercialization

Kansas State University soybeans

A new partnership between Kansas State University and The Farm Research Center, Garden City, Mo., aims to develop a new variety of soybean.

Through the partnership, made official at a Dec. 30 signing ceremony, The Farm is providing $60,000 in grant funding to William "Bill" Schapaugh, Kansas State professor of agronomy, for research on two tasks:

1. Develop new maturity group 4 soybean varieties with protein and oil levels that meet sponsor criteria for commercialization ($45,000).

2. Assess genetic diversity in current germplasm for amino acid profiles — specifically, methionine, threonine and lysine ($15,000).

"Our aim with these tasks is to improve soybean varieties to better meet the needs of farmers and end users," Schapaugh said. "The funding will allow us to develop populations to combine specific traits into high-yielding varieties and screen germplasm to identify unique and beneficial sources of new genes to use in the breeding program."

Schapaugh's research focuses on developing new varieties with unique combinations of genes that result in a soybean plant that produces a better commercial product. Schapaugh said the U.S. industry has developed excellent soybean varieties but is far from using the available germplasm that has been collected around the world. The partnership will help magnify the plant's potential.

"We are interested in looking at unique sources of genes — genes that could potentially be helpful in developing a new variety," Schapaugh said.

The partnership has outlined two of possibly many additional tasks to improve soybean commercialization. Additional tasks might focus on priorities such as: enhancing the plant's stress tolerance or improving oil quality or resistance to diseases and pests, Schapaugh said.

"The collaboration between (Kansas State) scientists and The Farm's progressive field research will help increase yield and productivity in the agriculture industry," Kansas State executive director of outreach Rich Sell said. "These first two tasks are part of what we hope will be a long and fruitful partnership to ultimately produce more and better food and feed for the consumer at a reduced price."

The Farm Research Center specializes in research to attain the highest yield possible for growers while using environmentally friendly practices. It also has researched biologicals, starter fertilizers, foliar applications, farming practices and many other areas to produce higher yields in crops.

"Already, we, at The Farm, have a history of testing and bringing to market soybean varieties," said Kent Kauffman, chief executive officer of The Farm Research Center. "We look forward to working with Kansas State ... on developing high-yielding soybeans that offer the compositional characteristics, including protein, oil and amino acid content, that the industry demands. This research partnership will expand our capabilities and enable all parties to better serve the agriculture industry."

LIVESTOCK MARKETS: A new year for cattle markets

aerial view of feedlot cattle

Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist Derrell Peel says cattle prices in 2017 are expected to average close to fourth-quarter 2016 levels, although they will be lower than 2016 for year-over-year averages.  

“Several factors may have a significant impact on cattle and beef markets in 2017 and may change current price expectations. These factors bear close watching in the coming year,” he said.

Uncertainty and volatility, from a variety of sources, will continue to hover ominously over cattle and beef markets in 2017, Peel explained.

“Current U.S. macroeconomic conditions are encouraging; the stock market finished strong, and unemployment was low at the end of 2016," he said. "However, the economy is gearing up for higher interest rates and potentially higher inflation moving into 2017.”

Additionally, uncertainty surrounds changes that have been suggested by the incoming Trump Administration. “The economic impacts may be positive or negative or, more likely, some combination of both, but the uncertainty surrounding coming changes is, without question, a negative,” Peel said.

In addition to U.S. macroeconomic uncertainty, Peel also noted that global market uncertainty will likely continue in the coming year.  

“The Brexit vote of last summer has been followed by several additional populist moves in Europe that add to global economic uncertainty. Separate but related to macroeconomic uncertainty, volatility in live and feeder cattle futures has significantly reduced the effectiveness of these tools for price discovery and risk management and contributed to additional cash market volatility, which appears likely to continue in 2017.”

U.S. beef production is also expected to increase an additional 4% during 2017, which will add to the 6.1% year-over-year increase in 2016.

Peel said cattle slaughter exceeded expectations throughout 2016. “Changes in cattle slaughter and carcass weights from current expectations may cause adjustments in beef production levels and timing in 2017 and could impact current price forecasts,” he said.

Herd expansion through 2016 ensured increased beef production through 2018, Peel explained, adding that herd expansion may slow or stop completely in 2017. This will will affect heifer flows in 2017 and will determine beef production expectations beyond 2018, he said.

According to Peel, feedlots will continue to enjoy a low cost of gain as the record 2016 grain crops will keep grain supplies plentiful through the current grain marketing year. However, he added, “Dry conditions across much of the southern part of the country are consistent with La Niña conditions and could be an issue for 2017 forage and crop production if current conditions persist into spring.”

Increased beef production will combine with increased pork and poultry production for another record total meat supply in 2017, Peel said. Domestic per capita meat consumption is not expected to be a record but is expected to increase another 1.5% year over year in 2017, on top of the 1.4% year-over-year increase in 2016. However, Peel said per capita consumption will depend critically on continued exports of all meats.

He said retail beef prices will continue adjusting downward in 2017, which is key to helping the market absorb additional beef in the face of large total meat supplies.

Peel also said international trade in beef and cattle is a critical component of price expectations for 2017. “Expectations for continued growth in beef exports, simultaneous with decreased beef imports, will significantly offset a portion of increased beef production in 2017,” he explained.

According to Peel, one of the bigger uncertainties surrounding the Trump Administration is the direct impact on current trade patterns as well as potential future beef and cattle trade policies. The dollar is also expected to remain strong, which he said will continue to pose a headwind to faster and stronger improvement in cattle and beef trade.

Colombia seminars demonstrate versatility, profitability of U.S. pork

pork chop

A weak Colombian peso and an increase in domestic pork production led to a slowdown in U.S. pork exports to Colombia in 2015 and during the first half of 2016, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, a rebound began to emerge late last year, with October exports climbing 68% in volume to 5,862 metric tons and 77% in value to $14.6 million. October exports of muscle cuts to Colombia were the largest on record, at 5,428 mt, up 58% from 2015, USMEF noted.

In an effort to continue this momentum and regain a larger share of the Colombian pork market, USMEF recently conducted seminars in Bogota and Medellin designed to highlight economically priced pork cuts that deliver value for Colombian restaurateurs and retailers. The seminars were funded by the pork checkoff.

Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president for international marketing, explained that the goal of the seminars was to provide an overview of U.S. pork production and highlight the availability of U.S. pork products going forward.

“The last few years have been a little bit more challenging in Colombia,” Hanes said. “The exchange rates and higher prices have had an impact, and now with the opportunities that are happening with increased production in the U.S., there’s really a lot more opportunities for these buyers to utilize U.S. product and still be very profitable. So, the goal was to give them an idea of really where we are on the production basis in the U.S. now and the availability of the product that’s going to be going forward over the next years.”

USMEF wanted to introduce some of the different cuts and show attendees ways to merchandise cuts. As such, a Colombian chef who is very knowledgeable about U.S. pork prepared several different cuts.

The seminars also offered ideas on how USMEF can support customers’ efforts to expand usage of U.S. pork. The bulk of U.S. pork exports to Colombia traditionally have been made up of cuts utilized by the further-processing industry, but several cuts featured at the seminar – including St. Louis spare ribs, bone-in loins and bone-in hams – can be successfully merchandised in Colombian restaurants and supermarkets.


USDA develops animal welfare assessment standards, programs

Scott Olson_Getty Images News younger hogs on a farm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has developed a program under which it will offer assessments of independent animal welfare standards and programs to determine if they conform to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Specification (TS) 34700 – Animal Welfare Management/General Requirements and Guidance for Organizations in the Food Supply Chain.

The ISO TS applies to terrestrial animals bred or kept for the production of food or feed and was developed to ensure that food-producing animals are raised, transported and processed humanely. The TS also establishes a strong framework for industry animal welfare standards and programs to verify that they are rooted in science and can be widely accepted.

AMS has developed a procedure for organizations interested in having their standards and programs verified against ISO TS 34700. AMS invites organizations interested in this service to review the procedure, “USDA ISO TS 34700 Animal Welfare Assessment." AMS will work with interested organizations to develop additional program materials, including objective, transparent audit checklists. Programs will be verified through routine independent and on-site audits by AMS to ensure that they meet the requirements of ISO TS 34700.

Low-carb diets safe in short term

Shutterstock pork chops with vegetables

People deciding between low-carb and low-fat diets should know that the research shows a slight advantage for low-carb diets when it comes to weight loss, according to an article published in December in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Physicians from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona found that low-carb diets, including Atkins, South Beach and Paleo, were safe for up to six months. Depending on the diet, participants lost 2.5 to almost 9 lb. more than those who followed a low-fat diet.

"The best conclusion to draw is that adhering to a short-term, low-carb diet appears to be safe and may be associated with weight reduction," said Dr. Heather Fields, an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and lead researcher on this study. "However, that weight loss is small and of questionable clinical significance in comparison to low-fat diets."

Analyzing research from January 2005 to April 2016, Fields reviewed articles that addressed potential adverse effects and the overall safety of low-carb diets. Diets that heavily restrict carbohydrates often lead to greater consumption of meats.

While available studies did not consistently address the source or quality of proteins and fats consumed in low-carb diets, they did show short-term efficacy in weight loss without negative effects on blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol compared with other diets.

However, Fields said the findings come with a caveat.

"Physicians must keep in mind that the literature is surprisingly limited, considering the popularity of these diets and the claims of health benefits in the public press," she said. "Our review found no safety issues identified in the current literature, but patients considering (low-carb diets) should be advised there is very little data on long-term safety and efficacy."

Fields also noted that limitations in the previous research she reviewed made it difficult to draw broad conclusions. For example, studies did not address the type of weight lost — whether muscle, water or fat — and studies primarily relied on participants' dietary recall, which is highly susceptible to error.

Fields' review found even the definition of a low-carb diet to be highly variable. While all were based on carbohydrate restriction, diets allowed carbs to account for anywhere between 4% and 46% of daily calories, which convolutes the evidence.

"As an osteopathic physician, I tell patients there is no one-size-fits-all approach for health," Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, an osteopathic family physician, said. Factors like the patient's genetics and personal history should be considered, along with the diet programs they've tried before and, most importantly, their ability to stick to them."

Lowe-Payne acknowledged that carbohydrates are a mainstay of most people's diets and that, after six months, weight loss is virtually the same as for people on a low-fat diet.

However, she noted that low-carb diets deliver early benefits for patients trying to lower their blood sugar levels or manage insulin resistance.

"When you think of what dieters want — and what they need to stay motivated — it is the satisfaction of results. They want to see significant weight loss and fast. For many, a low-carb lifestyle provides the answer they are looking for," Lowe-Payne explained.