3 Things Every Pet Owner Can Do to Reduce Food Waste

We all want to have a healthy family, pet(s), and planet. Furthermore, we know that fresh, ethically farmed and especially organic foods play a key role in achieving our mutual goal- overall health. However, in order to grow our health, the high quality food we seek requires a lot of natural resources, labor and love!


It’s heartbreaking to see great quality food end up in the landfill, yet the size and scale of the fresh food waste problem is astonishingly large! Depending on who you ask, somewhere between 20 and 40% of farm to fork and lightly processed food goes to waste every year! [1] These foods either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens. The discarded food equates to be enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet.


3 Things Every Pet Owner Can Do to Reduce Food Waste


What’s The Problem With Food Waste? Isn’t It Compost?


Overall Food Waste Contributes to Global Warming

Food production accounts for over a quarter (approximately 26%) of global greenhouse gas emissions including; livestock and fisheries, crop production, land use, and transportation [2]. This means that wasted food accounts for at least 5% of the greenhouse gases, as well as putting further strain on other valuable natural resources like fresh-water water and land use.


Food Waste Means Less Healthy Options On The Shelves

Growing organic and healthier foods for people and their pets means going back to more traditional practices of diversified farms and smaller batches during manufacturing. This is less efficient and more expensive than large-scale commercial farming and manufacturing. Which means that the farmers who rear animals naturally in a pasture alongside good quality crops and manufacturers who choose cleaner, less invasive processing methods are taking a bigger financial risk to get these healthier products to market. Many of these companies don’t have large budgets and are often started out of passion and love, not abundance of resources and investment funding. So every wasted pound of this food can make the difference between these companies surviving and going out of business. If we want overall better food producers, we need to get away from the traditional expectations of “we want everything now and we want it fresh” while dismissing the less than perfect products, or those nearing their best before date.


Why is Fresh Food Waste Such a Big Problem?


We All Contribute To It- Even In Ways We Don’t Necessarily Think About

For example, imagine going to the grocery store to buy milk… you look at the shelf bursting with milk bottles, quickly scan the best before dates … and pick the one that’s a bit newer than some of the other options on the shelf. I am sure most of us have done this at some point because we want our food to be as fresh as possible, leaving the nearest best before date overlooked and eventually discarded. However, every time we make this decision, we are each contributing to the global food waste problem.


When it comes to real food there are no absolutes. If you want the food to be natural, there is no magical way to get the food to last longer than its natural life. Although, the best before date is an estimate and most foods will last well beyond this date. If we truly want to achieve a natural balance of health for animals and the planet, we have to respect this imperfection and take some of the ownership for supporting it.


This problem has been further highlighted during COVID, which created additional stresses and disruptions in already fragile food systems.


Businesses Getting Creative to Find A Solution

Over time, some companies have found creative ways to both bring awareness to and find homes for some of this unwanted food. For example, most of us probably remember the “Ugly vegetable” campaigns promoted by Jaimie Oliver and others to raise awareness to the fact that high quality vegetables were going to waste simply because they didn’t meet a certain “standard” of how they should look. Jamie Oliver Reclaiming Wonky Veg.


Other companies look at ways of upcycling it into animal feed and insect food. Some retail stores are starting to evaluate their purchasing practices to avoid overstock and encourage purchase of products that are approaching their best before date.


However, as consumers we have the power to have the biggest impact on reducing this problem by choosing products that are older and utilizing fresh, whole food products at and beyond their “best before date” when it is safe to do so.



How Can YOU Be A Part of The Food Waste Solution? 3 Simple Solutions


1. Know the Difference Between Best Before Date vs Expiry Date and Shelf Life

  • Expiry Date “Use by” and “Expiry Date” are related to safety and indicate the last day a product is safe to consume. Unlike best before dates, expiry dates are only required on certain foods such as meal replacements or supplements where the composition of nutrients on the label may change after the expiration date. [3]

  • Best Before “Best Before” is a recommendation which refers to the food quality rather than the safety of a given item. Products may lose its freshness, taste, aroma or some nutrients after its best before date however, It does not necessarily mean that the food is no longer safe to eat. [4]

  • Shelf Life “Shelf Life” is the length of time for which an item remains usable or fit for consumption. Most companies do not list the shelf-life as it will vary widely between products and sometimes even batches, depending on the product, how it is handled and stored. For example, a vacuum sealed frozen raw meat, the best before date may be 24 months from when it was frozen. However, the actual freezer “shelf life” could be closer to 36-48 months if the product was stored and handled correctly.


2. Get To Know Your Producer / Manufacturer

If you are using a high-quality whole food product, get in touch with your producer or manufacturer and find out their suggestion for shelf life and best storage practices. Also, their recommendation for products that are beyond their best before date. Every product is unique.


3. Learn Storage Best Practices for Each Product

The shelf-life of many whole food products, including those that are shelf stable, can be extended further through refrigeration and freezing. Here are some tips for storage best practices to extend the shelf life of products produced and distributed by RDKB

  • RDBK Frozen Raw Meat (vacuum sealed)

- Keep vacuum sealed package in freezer and sealed until ready to use.

- Ensure freezer is not overpacked and allows for some air circulation.

- Avoid constantly opening and closing freezer

- Chest freezer is the better option for long-term freezing.

  • Dehydrated Treats

- Keep in a dry, cool place

- Keep sealed and keep away from heat

  • OLIE Naturals Supplements

- New Beginnings, store in refrigerator even when sealed.

- For other products, store in cooler or freezer, even when sealed.

- Keep in cool dark place (avoid exposure to sunlight.

How Do You Know If A Product Is Safe To Use After Its Best Before Date?

Whole foods do eventually spoil and become unsafe to consumers. Usually when real foods spoil they will change in smell and other physical attributes i.e. milk smells, berries get soft and mushy and change in taste, etc.. Ask the manufacturer about how to tell if their product is unsafe.


What Red Dog Blue Kat Is Doing to Combat Food Waste

We believe that it is the responsibility of businesses to lead and inspire change for the better for our planet, our health, our animals and our community. In July 2020 we started “The Ugly Bone Initiative” to raise awareness about the issue of global food waste (especially of items from animals) by highlighting one such source of waste of “ugly” bone products that don’t match our vision of what a pet bone should look like.

RDBK Beef Hock Bones. Proceeds from bones sold are donated to Eco Charities

We sell these ugly bones to raise awareness about the issue and also donate all the proceeds from these products to Eco-Charities like the David Suzuki Foundation, Pacific Wild and the Global Footprint Network.


Further Resources to Learn About The Global Food Waste Problem:


References:

[1] Food waste stats: https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/

[2] Where greenhouse gasses come from https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food#the-carbon-footprint-of-eu-diets-where-do-emissions-come-from

[3] Government of Canada, Best Before Dates and Expiration Dates - What You Should Know https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2020/73383a-eng.php

[4] Government of Canada, Best Before Dates and Expiration Dates - What You Should Know https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2020/73383a-eng.php