Could feeding food waste to livestock help reduce our environmental footprint?

Chickens eating from bowls and plates


In the US, 14.7 million tons of food waste could be used for animal feed instead of being sent to landfills, where it produces methane emissions that intensify climate change.

Food production has profound environmental impacts—on land use, water consumption, ocean health, and climate. Meanwhile, up to 40% of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste.

To prevent degraded natural resources and wasted food, WWF researchers considered an age-old practice: feeding food scraps to livestock. Partnering with universities, farms, and retailers, they tested whether swapping various ingredients made from food waste into chickens’ diets would have less environmental cost than conventional feed.

The results? While all feed mixes formulated with the alternative ingredients could decrease demand for agricultural land used to grow feed crops, some could require more water to produce and have a higher carbon footprint. Only feeds made with bakery by-products showed environmental benefits across the board.

More research is needed to understand the impact on landfill emissions when we divert food waste away from landfills and into livestock feed. But food waste-to-feed models, combined with better waste prevention efforts, are quickly gaining traction—and could play a significant role in more circular, ecologically friendly food systems.

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