Upcycled food

Upcycled protein powder from unmarketable veg

On my last stop-in at the luxury grocery discount outlet* around three weeks ago, the “upcycled” on these labels caught my eye. “Certified Upcycled”? Don’t think I’d heard upcycling applied to food in that direct way, but it made sense. It has an automatic eco-conscious, palatable ring to it that “recycled food” certainly wouldn’t. My immediate thought was that it referred to using cosmetically damaged and unsold fruits and vegetables to make things—damaged meat and meat scraps isn’t as appealing, and we already have hot dogs. I imagined the piles of veggies that at times went onto the compost heap on my tiny farm. I took the photo, figuring I might want to know more…

The big number that is hard to imagine is 35% of food goes to waste around the world. That’s the rough figure I see everywhere I look. Sometimes it’s 25% or 40%. In any case, let’s say, a third of all food is somehow made, then not eaten. How does that work? I finish a harvest, then toss a third of it on the compost heap? Every time I buy three bags of groceries, I immediately dump one in a bin conveniently located at the supermarket exit? There’s an oversupply of some food crop and boxcar loads get left unsold by the tracks? There are lots of ways food can get wasted, and they all add up. It’s one of these modern problems we have that’s so sprawled through supply chains, it’s hard to see a big picture of how we got here, let alone how to do something significant about it.

In that mix, we have upcycled food. Here, protein powder and something called Super Greens. Checking out the company’s web site doesn’t yield much info, and no surprises. Seems they gather various unsold crops and…process them. Assuming the nutritional quality is the same as non-upcycled, is the upcycled product cheaper to buy? Or is the main advantage the feeling as a consumer that you’ve done something good for the environment, for the planet? It’s easy, only a search or an AI buddy away, to get more info. For me, for now, I’m satisfied. Upcycled food means companies out there are making otherwise going-to-waste food into…more food. Got it!

*Luxury grocery discount outlet is what I call the local discount food outlet with a line-up that includes an everchanging assortment of big brand names and specialty organic labels. Great deals, around a third of the normal price or even less (I haven’t done actual price comparisons, but that’s what it seems like). Excellent finds aren’t guaranteed, but it’s always worth a stop. One of my all-time favorite scores: certified organic chicken gravy and brown gravy cubes, 50¢ for a box of four. I stocked up on soooo many! (I don’t think that much of the certified organic stamp in general, there’s all the lawyering and lobbying going on by the big food manufacturers to massage the rules, who knows what exactly it represents, but when it comes to processed products, and for 50¢, why not?!)

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