posted July 12, 2022
Why Food Waste Is an Animal-Rights Issue
Comedian Jim Gaffigan joked that he throws newly bought avocados directly in the trash on the way out of the store, just to save time. Each year, America throws out 40% of the food it produces—roughly 400 lbs. of food per person—and that’s no joke. That doesn’t even factor in the discards that occurs during food production. All that waste means hungry stomachs in underserved communities and increased methane emissions from decomposing hyperabundance. It also means countless pigs, chickens, cows, and other precious animals have their lives taken only to be thrown in the landfill. While Vegans and the veg-curious are working to end the cycle of violence against animals, the upcycled food movement creates food from previously unloved sources. Think pulp from your fresh morning juice turned into banana bread, but on an industrial scale.
Which Brands Are Upcycling—and What Is Upcycled Food, Anyhow?
While food producers can do little about what happens to their merchandise once in the hands of consumers, it turns out some brands are doing a lot to rescue otherwise unused byproducts of production. According to the Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, “Upcycled food is a culinary solution to food waste (https://myethicalchoice.com/en/journal/food-loss/upcycled-food-brands/).” Vegan brands Caju Love, Capao, and Renewal Mill, to name a few, all turn waste into wellspring.
Everyone knows dinner is the most important meal of the day (or is that just me?). Luckily for us, Caju Love creates cashew fruit meat from the (literal) tons of discarded cashew juice and fruit byproducts of the cashew nut industry. Thanks to Caju Love, the rejected fiber is now a 0% waste, 100% delicious, and versatile main course (use it like ground beef). The story of Caju Love’s founders, first-generation immigrants, Alana and Felipe—both barely out of high school—will give you hope for our planet’s future.
Sometimes dinner seems miles away and you just need a little something to get you through, so you start eyeballing that candy bar. But did you know cacao beans (which create my personal lifeblood, more commonly known as chocolate) make up only 30% of the cacao fruit? The other 70% gets tossed—or did, until Capao rescued it to make delicious and nutrient-dense fruit bites mixed with coconut, cashews, apricots, chia seeds, and plenty of antioxidants and polyphenols to boot. Capao’s packaging is fully recyclable, and the whole production is wind powered. Ka-pow! Take that, climate change!
If dinner is the most important meal, then dessert comes in at a close second. (Again…just me?) The next time you’re in the mood to whip up some super fun treats for the fam, reach for handy-dandy Renewal Mill baking mix packages, which boldly claim “Fights Climate Change” right on the front so you can feel good even before you take your first tantalizing bite. Award-winning cookbook author, Alice Medrich, takes Renewal Mill’s premium high-fiber and gluten-free flours, made from the byproducts of plant-based milks, and crafts stunning baking mixes and kits. I’m talking everything from Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies to Matcha Chip Cookies to the most adorable Stained Glass Heart Sugar Cookie Kit you’ve ever seen. See? All of their products are made from upcycled vegan ingredients, and their packaging is plastic negative, which mean they remove twice as much plastic from the environment as they use for their packaging. Cookies to the rescue!
Caju Love, Capao, and Renewal Mill aren’t the only brands upcycling. Though not an entirely vegan-based organization, the Upcycled Food Association (online at UpcycledFood.org and on Instagram) curates a list of certified brands in the movement. My strategy? Love their vegan posts; ignore or inform on their non-vegan posts.
Support by Snacking
So, what can you do to support the upcycled movement? You could to all the things, like halve recipes, freeze surplus portions to eat later, split a restaurant meal with a friend and leave a huge tip instead of getting two meals and throwing out half each. But the easiest way to support upcycling is by snacking smartly! Try a little something from Caju Love, Capao, Renewal Mill, or any number of forward-thinking upcycled brands. Share your snacks and spread the word. There is no more enjoyable way to help save the planet.
Michelle Schaefer has her master’s in psychology, bachelor’s in writing, and is a 2017 graduate of the Main Street Vegan Academy. She has written for VegNews, bUneke (Be Unique), Edible Indy, USA Today, and others, and is currently the Director of Brand Partnerships for VegNews, the world’s largest Vegan media brand. She lives in Indiana with her boss, a 15-year-old cat named Mr. Fuzzy. Find her online at Veggie Chel.