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Fighting food waste one plate at a time

Up to 50 per cent of food produced in the world is wasted. Three Whistler companies fight back



Sensitivity to the environment is taken seriously in Whistler. The resort's record for composting is well known and everyone seems to like it; it's not unusual to see a liftie on the bus carrying a small bag of organic waste to one of the composting stations around town.  

But how did the waste get to be waste in the first place? Clean the fridge, throw out food. Go to the store without planning the week and overbuy, throw out food. Don't know how to use the lemon rind, the chicken carcass, and the extra slices of vegetables? Throw them out. Don't like the black spots on the banana skin? Throw it out.

Britain's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE ) measured what this kind of wastage means on a worldwide scale. They called the results "staggering."

The report, called "Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not," came out last month. It said 1.2 billion to two billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year is never eaten, 30 to 50 per cent of all food produced.

The reasons, according to IMechE, include "poor engineering and agricultural practices", infrastructure problems, poor storage, and the West's buy-one-get-one-free consumer mentality for cosmetically attractive food.

And as bad as that is, there is more to consider. IMechE reports that 550bn cubic metres of water is used growing wasted crops, more to produce uneaten meat; it can take 30 times more water to produce one kilogram of meat compared to a kilogram of vegetables.

IMechE believes 60 to 100 per cent more food could be available to use simply by stopping this disaster.

Faced with such statistics what can be done? Some Whistler food producers tell their stories of forward food practices.

Alta Bistro's owner Edward Dangerfield said their approach involves making intelligent planning central to their operations.

"If you have something that is highly volatile, like scallops, and you put it on your menu and price it aggressively, it's going to move. But if you put that item on there and it's too expensive, you've got to change a couple of things otherwise it won't sell and then you have wastage," Dangerfield said.

Menu design is therefore crucial.

"Then above this is the actual kitchen management, how you implement it. That spans ordering. We came out of Christmas and you have to shift thinking — then the restaurant was full every night. You have to remember in January not to keep ordering like that," he said.

"Next is stock rotation, which is so important. It's as simple as putting fresh produce away behind older produce. It sounds simple but when you've got eight guys working for you, they've all got to be on the same page."

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