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Fresh grocery produce as a supplement for livestock feed

published: May 24th 2017
by: – V. Fellner, J.M. Rice and M. Boersig
source: The Professional Animal Scientist

The fact that almost a third of the annual food produced in the United States is not consumed by humans has drawn wide attention in recent years. Typically, 97% of wasted food is disposed in landfills. The use of food waste as animal feed is one partial solution to this problem. Grocery stores in the United States generate significant amounts of food scraps from trimmings and other excess product that has deteriorated beyond saleable quality for human consumption. Food scraps consist of portions of produce that have become unwholesome due to deterioration, discoloration, or general loss of freshness.

Historically, much of this excess organic material has been discarded into landfills. However, the environmental costs of this practice have prompted most grocery chains to adopt more sustainable practices for at least 2 reasons: as a matter of social responsibility and in response to customer demand. Practices such as composting and industrial conversion to energy via anaerobic digestion are considered superior to landfills according to the EPA hierarchy. However, composting generally results in a net cost to retailers, and anaerobic digestion is currently not available in most areas. Using produce and bakery waste as animal feed recovers the energy in the food and potentially raises the value of the postretail supply chain, especially if the nutritional quality and safety of the waste can be maintained through efficient handling.

Fresh grocery produce was collected from 5 different store locations in the Raleigh. NC area. Fresh grocery produce had a high moisture concentration (Dry Matter = 9.1 ± 1.35%) and a Total Digestible Nutrient content of 76.1 ± 5.94%. The Crude Protein averaged 17.2 ± 3.76%. Total fat averaged 4.7 ± 2.9%. Neutral detergent fiber and ADF averaged 16.8 ± 1.75% and 13.6 ± 1.96%, respectively.

Fresh grocery produce can be a good source of nutrients for livestock; however, the inherent variability in nutrients and the high moisture concentration are factors that require further consideration for it to be a viable option for most farmers to include as a feed supplement.

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