How upcycling transforms industrial food scraps into certified tasty dishes

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When staff at Guelph’s Wellington Brewery have finished making beer, they don’t just throw away the spent grain. In fact, you can track the materials used on a short tour of southwestern Ontario that sees brewery by-products make their way to Cambridge and Fergus before returning to Guelph and eventually onto menus at the Neighborhood Group of Restaurants.

Using previously used ingredients to create a new food product is the latest iteration of “upcycling” – a word that usually refers to the transformation of clothing or furniture.

“The easiest way to think about upcycling is to think about what is left over when a food product has been made or transformed. A simple example is when you make beer. an incredible amount of nutrients and value left,” said Cher Mereweather, CEO of Anthesis Provision of Guelph, a sustainable food and beverage company, which facilitated Wellington’s Spent Grain Network.

And beyond cereals, onion trimmings from the production of onion rings can be used to make broths; the byproducts of tofu making can be used to create ramen noodles; and discarded peas can be used to make vegetable protein powder.

Dregs from the Wellington brewery are used to feed the insects grown at Oreka Solutions, near Cambridge. Oreka’s insects, in turn, become feed for cattle and chickens and nutrition for trout at Izumi Aquaculture in Cambridge. The trout then head to restaurants in the Guelph Neighborhood Group (Wooly, Borealis, Miijidaa) for fish dishes.

But it doesn’t stop there: detritus from Izumi’s fish-growing areas goes to Fergus to become fertilizer for Smoyd Farm potatoes; The Smoyd potatoes also go to the Groupe de Quartier where they are transformed into fries… to accompany the trout dish.

And there’s more recycling: brewer’s grains also go to the Grain Revolution bakery in Guelph and, with the help of yeast from Escarpment Labs, also in Guelph, become sourdough.

The spent grain is ground into flower at Boulangerie St-Vincent in Montreal. A similar process is followed in Guelph where spent grain from the Wellington Brewery becomes bread in the grain revolution. (Alison Northcott/CBC)

According to Mereweather, food recycling is gaining ground.

Together with its funders, including OMAFRA and other partners, Anthesis operates the Re(Purpose) Incubator on behalf of the City of Guelph.

Half of Canada’s food supply is wasted

Upcycling is in its infancy but is growing rapidly. A few years ago, Outcast Foods began recycling “ugly” products that were aesthetically flawed or otherwise unsuitable for the grocery store. In partnership with grocers and farmers, as well as food manufacturers, the company converts unwanted products into protein powders, dietary supplements and other plant-based ingredients. You can find the company’s protein powders at Sobeys.

Based in Nova Scotia, Outcast received $1.5 million in federal funding in February to help build a 46,000 square foot. facility in Burlington, Ontario. It represents recent efforts by food manufacturers to capture an untapped market for discarded but useful foods, and thereby reduce food waste.

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According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, more than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted every year. He estimates that $50 billion of this food waste is preventable.

And like organic foods, foods now upcycled in Canada can now be “Upcycled Certified” by the Upcycled Food Association, an American organization that has just announced its launch in Canada: this is an important recent development, according to Mereweather.

For consumers, certification raises awareness about recycling, but it also builds confidence in the recycled food, beverages, cosmetics, pet food, home care and cleaning products they can buy. Mereweather says the certification helps tackle the false impression that recycled food is somehow substandard or “bad”.

“There’s this misconception that we use waste, but it’s not waste. It’s the inevitable by-products that happen when we make something, and it can be turned into something else,” she says. .

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, more than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted every year. (Radio Canada)

Their incubator helps companies identify so-called waste and find new sources of revenue for it. The incubator helps define a new product, create a value cycle, and assist the process of nutrient profiles, food safety, market viability, and getting the recycled product on shelf or online, a- she declared.

There are a growing number of recycled products, according to Mereweather, that can be purchased online or even in stores.

Although the company didn’t go through the incubator, Mereweather points out that Greenhouse Juice Co. in Toronto uses “seconds” of vegetables and fruits to make its juice, then uses the remaining fibers in pizza crusts.

Abokichi, a North York company, is a member of the Upcycled Food Association. They make a miso soup with sake lees (the leftover pulp). They say that in 2020 they diverted over two tons of processing byproducts into food waste.

It’s about changing the conventional process of food production, Mereweather says, to one that eliminates waste and shares economic prosperity along the value chain and with consumers.

“Our current food system is built on a linear model. We take resources, we make something, and then we dispose [leftover parts]. Upcycling is a circular model, which is inspired by the natural cycles of the planet and which reinvents and regenerates the systems that nourish us.”

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