The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the signing of a formal agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to renew their Federal Interagency Collaboration to Reduce Food Loss and Waste (FIFLAW). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also joined the collaboration.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf, and USAID Administrator Samantha Power signed the formal agreement renewing and enhancing the collaborative effort.

“By renewing this agreement and adding USAID into the effort, we affirm our shared commitment to coordinated action to reduce food loss and waste and educate Americans on its impacts and importance,” Vilsack said. “Individually and collectively, each of these agencies is working to combat food loss and waste from farm to table.”

The Federal Interagency Collaboration to Reduce Food Loss and Waste was first formed in October 2018 and was renewed in December 2020. Since its creation, the Federal Interagency Collaboration has published the draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics. It has also signed a formal agreement with the national non-profit ReFED regarding the technical implementation of strategies to reduce food waste.

USDA also announced today an investment of $4 million by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to fund a $1.5 million Center for Research, Behavioral Economics and Extension on Food Loss and Waste and a $2.5 million Pilot Consumer Education Campaign on Food Loss and Waste. Purdue University and Ohio State University will lead the two projects.

The Center will use a systems approach in conducting research and Extension outreach on policies and programs relevant to addressing inefficiencies in the food system and food-related practices. It will focus on engaging underserved audiences and the next generation of young adults. Furthermore, the Center will develop a National Extension Food Loss and Waste strategy that aligns with other federal guidance.

The Ohio State University will conduct and evaluate a pilot consumer campaign to develop educational messages and materials that meaningfully reduce the amount of U.S. household food waste. Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to develop an integrated education program for governmental and non-governmental organizations for local consumer food waste reduction campaigns.

NCC earlier this year submitted formal comments to EPA and USDA regarding the administration’s National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste, including the following key points and areas for enhancing the National Strategy:

  • The Use of Byproducts. A perfect example of minimizing food waste is the use of various byproducts in chicken feed, including bakery meal, animal proteins/fats, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), and peanut meal. By nature, chickens are excellent at upcycling as they can readily digest these byproducts that would otherwise go to waste and turn them into protein for energy.
  • Rendering. Rendering is the process of using high heat and pressure to turn various meat and poultry byproducts into reusable, nutrient-dense items for consumption by livestock and pets or into organic fertilizer. Poultry processing facilities across the U.S. use rendering facilities to process inedible parts of the bird or those parts that do not meet standards for human consumption. One of the most common byproducts from the poultry industry is feather meal. Feathers are collected at the processing plants, ground, and dried and made into a slow-release, organic fertilizer or a feed additive for livestock.
  • Automation and Transportation. Technological expansions in poultry processing plants have greatly reduced food waste. Automated technologies help ensure chicken is cut into parts more accurately thereby minimizing miscuts, downgrades, and products that may be sent to rendering. These technologies have greatly improved yield, ensuring that more meat is removed from the bone and enters the food supply. As artificial intelligence develops and technologies are perfected, the industry will continue to minimize food waste from chicken production, ensuring that everything from the bird is yielded and little goes to waste.

Unfortunately, several current and pending regulatory policies either do or would contribute to food waste in the chicken industry, and NCC is urging FDA and USDA to reevaluate these policies.

The first is for FDA to allow surplus hatchery eggs into the breaking egg market, which would reduce waste and decrease costs. Due to fluctuating market conditions, broiler hatcheries sometimes have more eggs on hand than they want to hatch. These are known as “surplus” hatching eggs. Before 2009, when the FDA implemented new rules that changed the temperature requirements for storage, broiler producers were able to sell these surplus eggs to egg processors, known as “breakers,” to be pasteurized (cooked) and used as ingredients in products such as salad dressings, bread, cake mix, pasta, pancake mix, mayonnaise, ice cream, pie crusts, sauces, and many other everyday food products.

Unfortunately, FDA’s policy forces the broiler industry to send perfectly nutritious and safe eggs to landfills instead of American tables – the very definition of wasting food.

The second is a proposed Salmonella Framework being pushed by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). It is being drafted with the goal of improving food safety—specifically, decreasing Salmonella in raw poultry products—but it is not based on scientific data, nor is it associated with any known public health outcomes.

This regulation will likely result in entire days of production being wasted, farmers having extended out times, delayed shipments of birds and chicks, and grocery stores and restaurants being delayed fresh products. If any test comes back positive, processing facilities will be forced to either cook, render, or throw away the chicken when it is perfectly safe to eat when properly cooked and handled.  As a low estimate, if just one percent of the over 46 billion pounds of chicken produced each year were discarded or rendered, this would lead to over 460 million pounds of fresh chicken being wasted annually.

“Without spending additional resources, agencies can take action to not only reduce waste but also decrease food prices while increasing their availability for consumers,” NCC’s comments concluded. “By working cooperatively towards achieving this goal, innovative solutions can be found.”

NCC’s full comments can be found here.