5 Things to Know about Upcycled Foods
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Upcycled foods are being touted as an easy way for consumers to prevent food waste via the products they buy as new high-quality products are created out of surplus food. It’s an innovative approach to the issue of food waste and is the first consumer product-based solution, making it scalable and economically sustainable. Here are 5 things you should know about upcycled foods:
- Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would have otherwise ended up in food waste destinations. Food waste destinations are places like incinerators, animal feed, landfills, or anaerobic digestors. By avoiding these destinations, upcycled food makes better use of the energy expended in growing, transporting, and preparing that food. EPA estimated that each year, U.S. food loss and waste embodies 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants.
- Upcycled foods are value-added products. One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, worth approximately US$1 trillion. Upcycled food captures that value, and leverages it to create a sustainable and resilient food system.
- Upcycled foods are for human consumption. Upcycled food is about advancing food to its highest and best use. Upcycled food products are made for human consumption, but upcycled ingredients may also be included in animal feed, pet food, cosmetics, and more.
- Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain. Twenty-eight percent of agricultural land goes to grow food that is never eaten. The auditable supply chain makes sure that upcycled food is truly helping to reduce waste by utilizing all the nutrients grown on farms, helping farmers get more value out of their land. Upcycled food is meant to feed a growing population without putting harming the environment.
- Upcycled foods identify which ingredients are upcycled on their label. The Upcycled Food Association adopted its certification standard in 2021 to create a framework for upcycled ingredients and products. The standard requires products to contain at least 10% upcycled ingredients, while upcycled certified ingredients must contain at least 95% food originally produced for human consumption. Currently, food products from at least 25 brands have received the Upcycled Certified label.