Stop Wondering What Upcycled Food Means

The Lempert Report
July 17, 2020

The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that “use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.”

And yes, there really is an Upcycled Food Association.

The benefit to defining the term, the association says, is to encourage broad consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste.

The definition was drafted by a working group convened by the Upcycled Food Association, which included representatives from Harvard University, Drexel University, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, and ReFED, a nonprofit that analyzes solutions to food waste.

The definition is “putting some teeth into a trend that is doing the right thing for our food supply, our environment, consumers, and businesses,” Jonathan Deutsch, a professor at Drexel University and the director of the Drexel Food Lab, told Food Tank.

Standardizing the term, according to Food Tank,  is also a first step toward legislation that supports upcycling, according to Emily Broad Leib, a Harvard University law professor and the director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “Further research can be done to identify and leverage policy incentives to support upcycled foods as a model to reduce food waste and support a more sustainable food system.”

Upcycling has emerged in recent years as a way for food producers to add value to byproducts or surplus ingredients that might otherwise have been wasted.

Food companies such as Philabundance (no relation) and Treasure8 (of which I am a member of their advisory board) are repurposing safely edible ingredients, like excess milk or “ugly” vegetables, into nutritious cheeses and chips.