"What a waste"-Can we improve sustainability of food animal production systems by recycling food waste streams into animal feed in an era of health, climate, and economic crises?

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Food waste has been a major barrier to achieving global food security and environmental sustainability for many decades. Unfortunately, food waste has become an even bigger problem in many countries because of supply chain disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic and African Swine Fever epidemic. Although Japan and South Korea have been leaders in recycling food waste into animal feed, countries that produce much greater amounts of food waste, such as the United States and the European Union, have lagged far behind. Concerns about the risk of transmission of bacteria, prions, parasites, and viruses have been the main obstacles limiting the recycling of food waste streams containing animal-derived tissues into animal feed and have led to government regulations restricting this practice in the U.S. and EU. However, adequate thermal processing is effective for inactivating all biological agents of concern, perhaps except for prions from infected ruminant tissues. The tremendous opportunity for nitrogen and phosphorus resource recovery along with several other environmental benefits from recycling food waste streams and rendered animal by-products into animal feed have not been fully appreciated for their substantial contribution toward solving our climate crisis. It is time to revisit our global approach to improving economic and environmental sustainability by more efficiently utilizing the abundant supply of food waste and animal tissues to a greater extent in animal feed while protecting human and animal health in food animal production systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7071
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2020 by the authors.


  • Biosecurity
  • Carcass disposal
  • Food waste
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Nitrogen
  • Pathogens
  • Phosphorus
  • Rendered animal by-products

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