”The scene where food turns into garbage” aroused my curiosity, so I also interviewed a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Ueno. In this restaurant, sushi left unattended on the conveyor belt for about 15 minutes will be discarded, and it is said that the store deliberately shows this scene to customers. Just now, the price was marked, and the food that was available for customers to enjoy, turned into garbage in the next second, and the reason was simply that “the ingredients were dried up.” The boss said: “This is indeed a performance, but it is also to prove
your innocence to customers.” Consumers demand clean, safe, and undisguised “perfect food”, and the food industry strives to meet this requirement. Because of this, a large amount of food that is still edible is discarded. But whenever something goes wrong in the food industry, the media just condemns the industry. I think we are equally responsible for this outcome. Although edible food is still discarded, in recent years, efforts to address this problem have gradually spread. Next, I plan to introduce some initiatives by shops, businesses and governments, as well as actions that individuals can also participate in.
Food Banks & Food Drives
A food bank is an activity that connects food that is edible but thrown away with people who are hungry but have nothing to eat. Some foods that are difficult to sell in stores due to slightly damaged packaging or near expiration dates will be donated by the company to welfare facilities, “children’s canteens” and poor families. This campaign both reduces food loss and helps the needy. According to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, about 80 organizations are currently working in this area.
Food drives are part of the campaign, but it’s easier for individuals to participate. As long as you take the instant food and canned food that you can’t eat to “donation points” such as supermarkets or schools, the food will be sent to those in need. The event first originated in the United States, and became widely known in Japan in 2007 through events held by the gym Curves. Now the project’s “recruitment points” have expanded to community centers, 4S stores, libraries and various other places. A food donation tent was also set up at the Harvest Festival at the Tokyo Agricultural University that I visited recently.
“Cold Tofu Index” and “Baked Tofu Index”
In addition to these “reuse” activities, there is another practice that has been promoted, which is to reduce “food waste” itself.
In order to prevent “food overproduction” and reduce food loss, the Japan Meteorological Association built a system based on an algorithm and calculated two indices, the “cold tofu index” and the “baked tofu index”. Sagamiya Foods, a tofu producer in Maebashi City, receives daily reports from the Japan Meteorological Association and determines the amount of tofu produced.
In the past, food companies would collect promotional information on supermarket flyers and compare it with past performance to predict sales of their products and make adjustments to production. That’s because if there’s a surplus, more food is wasted and costs go up; but if there isn’t enough, retailers will complain about stock-outs. In the food industry, demand forecasting is much more critical for producers than it is for retailers.
Focusing on this, the Japan Meteorological Association analyzed the sales data of cold tofu, a summer seasonal product provided by Sagamiya Foods. The results showed that whenever the temperature rose significantly compared to the previous day, the sales of cold tofu increased significantly. So the Japan Meteorological Association built a system that combines past sales, weather forecast data, and the number of tweets complaining about the hot weather on Twitter to predict product demand.
Since Sagamiya Foods used the index, the gap between orders from customers such as supermarkets and actual production has fallen by about 30%. Based on the Cold Tofu Index, the Japan Meteorological Association has also developed the “Baked Tofu Index” for winter.
When I interviewed about this system in January 2017, the Japan Meteorological Association had already started forecasting demand for 6 food companies. Since then, they have developed a more general “demand forecast index”, which has greatly improved the types and quantities of predictable commodities. As of the autumn of 2010, the number of products that can be predicted by the system has increased to about 500, including food and daily necessities, and the scope of customers has also expanded a lot. Today, in addition to manufacturers, it also includes supermarkets and other retailers. The future can be expected – solutions born from technological innovation may create achievements that were unimaginable in the past.
The chef who “uses everything” to eliminate waste
Large quantities of vegetables, fish and meat were allegedly rejected by wholesalers as “not up to specification” and discarded before entering the supply chain. Japan has strict standards for food. Even if the raw materials have good taste and rich aroma, if the color, shape or size do not meet the specifications, they will be eliminated in the screening process and cannot enter the circulation link. In addition, in order to “adjust supply and demand” and maintain market prices in harvest years, some fruits and vegetables will be directly discarded in the fields. The exact amount of produce discarded in this way is unknown, as national governments and judicial agencies do not keep accurate figures. In the fishery industry, it is said that “unused fish” that cannot enter the circulation after unloading and are directly discarded can account for about 30% of the total. “Unused fish” refers to minor species that are not suitable for human consumption, or fish that do not enter distribution because the catch is too small to be incorporated into batches.
Among the people, some restaurants have already begun to pay attention to these “non-standard” vegetables and meat, and try to process them into delicious food. Ogino, a French restaurant located in Tokyo’s Ikejiri Bridge, will actively purchase “water pigs” that cause inflated weight due to hot weather and drinking too much water, vegetables such as asparagus with twisted shapes, and vegetables that have been driven out of humans when purchasing raw materials. Wild boar and wild deer in the living area.
“Water pigs are used for stuffing, and the offal is used for mincemeat and things like that. The idea of French cuisine is to make the most of everything, except for the eyeballs, hoofs and chicken feathers. Cooking.” Chef Ogino Shinya said to me.
Chef Ogino wants to promote this ‘best use’ approach to cooking and has published cookbooks on what to do with meat, how to cook with fruit, and even family-oriented cookbooks.
The spreading “3010 Movement”
The “3010 Movement” started in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, and has now been promoted to restaurants and hotels across Japan. “3010” refers to the thirty minutes after the party started and the ten minutes before the end. When people are at a restaurant or hotel for a company year-end party, wedding, family or community dinner, there is often a lot of food left over. Because of concentrating on chatting or drinking with other people, it is inevitable that there will be leftovers in the end-I am sure many people have experienced this, and I have also been the same. So the idea behind this movement is to focus on enjoying the food, at least at the beginning and end of the meal.