Look out, organics, there’s a new kid in town: mindful consumption

Discussions of healthy eating are often led by buzzwords like “clean,” “natural,” and “organic.”  Organic foods in particular have led the market for some time now; however, they are facing a decline in consumer perceptions.  According to Mintel, only 26% of consumers trust organic food labels.  This is likely because most consumers don’t really understand what it means for food to be organic and because of a lack of consistent regulations. Additionally, according to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, consumers preferred foods that were high in healthy components and nutrients as well as ones that were minimally processed/natural over organic foods.  Consumers are shifting away from specific labels like “organic” and toward broader concepts of health and environmentalism. This shift makes way for a new, more encompassing concept: mindful consumption.  Rather than focusing on one specific label like “organic,” a mindful consumer is focused on both…
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The Incredible Edible Eggshell

When people think of eggs, they likely think scrambled, fried, or poached.  Maybe they think of eggs for their use in baking as binding and leavening agents.  As a baker, I know I think of the latter- or, given my work in a vegan bakery, I think of substitutes like flax eggs.  But what about the part of eggs that we don’t typically think of as a consumable product: eggshells?  I decided to embark on some research into another side of NetZro’s food waste processing to find out more. I’m no scientist, but what I’ve gleaned from research is that the insides of an egg- the parts that humans consume- consist of the white and the yolk, which contain large quantities of protein, fat, and cholesterol.  Eggshells, on the other hand, are comprised of an inner and outer membrane consisting of fibers.  These fibers are composed mainly of proteins- about…
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Alternative Flour – made from grains other than wheat

Alternative and wheat-free flours were one of the top food trends of 2016 and it’s easy to see why.  Alternative flours- those made from grains other than wheat as well as non-grain sources such as legumes- tend to be higher in protein, fiber, and other nutrients than traditional wheat flour.  These flours have been garnering attention due to their health benefits and alignment with trendy diets of recent years, so the options available to consumers are always expanding. In the past few years, the alternative flour industry has seen significant growth in bean and lentil flour sales, indicating consumer interest in high-protein plant-based options.  These fall under the category of “pulse flours”- high-protein flours made from dried beans, peas, chickpeas, and/or lentils.  When alternative flours first started to make their way into American grocery stores, grain and nut flours got most of the attention.  As consumers have slowly eliminated ingredients…
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My Semester of Food Upcycling

Since January, I have served as NetZro’s Digital Communications and Brewers’ Spent Grain (BSG) Recipe Development Intern.  Throughout this process, I have worked to incorporate more sustainable food practices into my own life.  Today I’ll be sharing my experience working for NetZro and trying to become a more sustainable consumer, baker, and overall human being! From my BSG recipe tests, I’ve found that people enjoy their food more knowing it’s something they can feel good about.  When you tell someone that the brownie they’re eating was made with spent grain and that eating it helps reduce food waste, they tend to enjoy the experience more.  It also appeals to consumers because most of the sugar is taken out in the brewing process but the protein and fiber remain.  That being said, I don’t use spent grain in my baking just because I believe it’s a good thing to do- although…
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Sustainable Uses of Spent Grain

Brewer’s spent grain (BSG) is the primary byproduct of the brewing industry and, if not managed properly, can become a source of food waste.  The article “Sustainable Uses of Spent Grain” by Kay Witkiewicz details innovative ways that craft breweries are repurposing their spent grain to prevent waste. “While breweries such as Twisted Pine Brewing Co. and Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employ “farm-to-foam” approaches in creating seasonal beers using local ingredients, many others give back the bulk of their spent grain to their agricultural communities—from “foam-to-farm” so to speak.” A closed-loop system is the economic model of a circular economy.  When products no longer serve their original purpose they are upcycled into new ones, often leading to nontraditional uses of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. The farm-to-foam/foam-to-farm concept discussed in the article is similar to a closed loop.  Using spent grain as a farming input not only…
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Trash to Treasure

Upcycling ExplainedWhen a product is recycled, it is processed for reuse but most often in a way that downgrades its quality, giving it a new use but as a product of lesser value.  Upcycling solves this problem by reusing products in ways that uphold or improve their quality.For example, recycling could look like a piece of notebook paper becoming toilet paper; while this is superior to sending the notebook paper straight to a landfill, it still ultimately ends up in a waste stream.  On the other hand, upcycling a product maintains its quality to keep it in the “loop” indefinitely; for example, shoe company Sanuk takes old yoga mats and converts them into shoes.A Brief History of UpcyclingThe term “upcycling” was coined in 2002 in “Cradle to Cradle,” a book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart which outlines sustainable design theory.  While upcycling was introduced in “Cradle to Cradle,” the…
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