Food Waste to Feed Poultry


The Historic FoodieHow big a problem is food waste in the U.S.? The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates 10 percent of the available food supply is wasted at the retail level, and 20 pecent of what is purchased is wasted in the home. To put that into perspective, more than $160 billion worth of food is wasted every year in America.

My post, Fruits and Vegetables: Pretty Isn't Always Better, covered donations of food to food banks, shelters and individuals, and this one follows up with a discussion of donations to small farmers for feeding livestock. The best known example, and perhaps the largest such operation in the world, is Bob Combs, a pig farmer who feeds his pigs food waste from Las Vegas hotels, but for this post we will limit our interest to small poultry flocks.  

I’ve had people express frustration at restaurants and stores that refuse to donate scrap or surplus produce to feed chickens and other poultry, citing restrictions from the health department as their reason for not doing so. I began an investigation to find out what, if any, restrictions or guidelines there are concerning donating scrap/surplus food for feeding backyard or small farm poultry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations state, “If surplus food provided to animals contains no meat or animal materials, federal laws or regulations do not apply, although there may be state laws that regulate such feeding.”

The EPA website says one should “contact the county agricultural extension office, state veterinarian, or county health department to find out about specific state regulations” when asking for or considering donating produce to local farmers.

They also say facilities that do choose to donate such waste may qualify for a tax deduction or at least see smaller expenditures in disposing of such food by donating it rather than sending it to a landfill.

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