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Editorial: Reimagining leftovers

Sometimes deciding what to feed the family after a long, arduous day juggling daycare, jobs and traffic seems overwhelmingly complicated.

If the May 31 press release from the U.S.-based Tyson Innovation Lab is any indication, deciding what we’re going to put into our mouths next is about to get more cluttered with new products, new language and new pressure to think about how we feel about food.

In launching its new brand, ¡Yappah!, this two-pager bombards the reader with lingo such as “upcycling” and “rescued ingredients.” It makes the case that by supporting this brand, consumers can address “major social and sustainability challenges related to food.”

It launched its first product called Protein Crisps on the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform so we can all chip in and help the world’s second-largest meat processor fight food waste. As of June 7, it had raised US$4,069 from 208 backers.

Tyson says the name was inspired by a South American Andes tradition called “yapa,” which refers to the little something extra a merchant gives to a valued customer so that nothing gets wasted.”

“The ¡Yappah! brand mission is unique, important and far reaching,” said Rizal Hamdallah, head of Tyson Innovation Lab in the release. “The brand was created to inspire people and partners to rethink their relationship to food and how it impacts society. Through this launch, we intend to address global food challenges such as food waste.”

Protein Crisps are a cracker-like snack manufactured from “upcycled chicken breast trim that is still full of flavour and protein.”

Makers combined the itty-bitty pieces left over from making chicken tenders with “rescued” vegetable purée, (the mash that is left over from juicing) and what’s left of the barley used in brewing Molson Coors beer. The product is sold in a fully recyclable aluminum can.

No doubt, these ingredients contain useful nutrition. Food waste is a big issue. On average, about one-third of all food produced goes to rot, often in landfills where it produces greenhouse gases.

However, repurposing leftovers to reduce waste is nothing new in kitchens around the world. In the old days, we called it “soup” and “casseroles” and the only crowdsourcing involved was deciding how many places to set at the table.

In other cultures, it might be called haggis (a Scottish delicacy made from sheep heart, liver and lungs and served stuffed in the stomach), or sausage, stewed duck feet, or chicken head snacks.

This is just the latest example of how food industry is fragmenting as manufacturers look for new ways to attract customers beyond the usual attributes such as price, taste and nutritional value.

In this case, Tyson is taking the scraps from one set of highly processed foods and creating another. And if the “yum” factor isn’t enough to sell it, feeling morally superior while snacking just might.

The recently released Dalhousie University survey on consumer attitudes toward labelling of foods made from genetically modified ingredients lists 12 specific factors driving consumer purchases. Respondents were asked to choose up to three considerations. “Price is still dominant but other factors are also becoming more of an issue,” said lead author Sylvain Charlebois.

The message in this for farmers is mixed. Unless they are selling directly to consumers, farmers supply ingredients. The Tyson effort to differentiate or add value to leftovers doesn’t influence how those ingredients are produced.

However, in a remarkably different approach, Maple Leaf Meats in Canada conducted extensive surveys of its own before reconfiguring many of its product recipes to go ‘au naturel.’

The “manifesto” on its website promises no artificial preservatives, flavours, colours, sweeteners or animal byproducts. Instead of the usual hard-to-pronounce ingredients listed on most processed meat labels, it has turned to ingredients such as cultured celery extract, dried garlic, honey, lemon juice concentrate and rosemary extract.

Its promise to customers also includes a commitment to enhancing animal wellness practices according to the Five Freedoms, the most widely accepted global standard for animal care, and to minimizing the environmental impacts.

That does have implications for how farmers operate. The challenge is ensuring producers who supply into that value chain capture a share of the added value.

Both companies are hoping to cash in on the “feel good” trends in consumer choices.

But if I was betting money, I like the odds on Maple Leaf’s approach.

Consumers may be willing to think as they shop, but when they sit down to eat at the end of the day, the “feel good” factor is about how it sits with their stomach, not their conscience.

About the author

Editorial Director

Laura Rance is the Editorial Director for Glacier FarmMedia. She is an award-winning journalist who has covered agriculture and rural issues for more than 30 years.

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