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Recovering food discards as animal feed is not new. In many areas, hog farmers have traditionally relied on food discards to sustain their livestock. Diverting food to feed animals reduces disposal costs because farmers or companies will often take food scraps for less money than landfill hauling fees. Appropriate excess food may also be provided to zoos for use as feed for select animals, based upon the determination of each zoo's animal feeding experts. Additionally, some companies convert food discards into commercial animal feed and pet food.

What Types of Food Can Be Donated to Feed Animals?

Regulations vary from state to state on what types of food discards can be used to feed animals. Coffee grounds and foods with high salt content are usually not accepted, as they can be harmful to livestock.

To get started, contact the county agricultural extension office, state veterinarian, or county health department to find out about specific state regulations and to find contact information for licensed farmers.

What Laws Govern Feeding Animals Food Discards?

If surplus food provided to animals contains no meat or animal materials, federal laws or regulations do not apply, although there may be state laws that regulate such feeding. However, in cases where food contains meat or animal materials, or food that has come into contact with meat or animal products, converting food into feed for hogs is regulated by the Federal Swine Health Protection Act (PL 96 468). This Act requires that all such food must be boiled before being fed to hogs and that facilities conducting the boiling be registered with either the USDA or the chief agricultural or animal health official in the state in which the facility is located.

Regulations vary from state to state. Some states ban food donation for animal feed while others regulate what food can be donated. The regulations may also require specific handling processes in order to donate to animal feedstock. Prior to sending food scraps to animal feed, consult state regulations and contact your local solid waste agency or public health agency for guidance on any local permit requirements.

Success Stories

Rutgers University

New Jersey's Rutgers University, the third largest student dining operation in the country, is a leader in food scraps diversion. To reduce the amount of food waste generated at Rutgers, the dining halls partnered with a local farm, Pinter Farms, who collects on average 1.125 tons of food scraps per day from Rutgers' four main dining halls and feeds it to its hogs and cattle. Diverting food scraps to Pinter Farms cost Rutgers half the price of send the material to landfill. View fact sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 725K)

Barthold Recycling & Roll-off Services

Barthold Recycling & Roll-off Services collects food from restaurants, hotels, schools, nursing homes, grocery stores and even large food processors to feed 3,800 pigs and 250 head of cattle on its 290-acre facility. Today, Barthold collects food scraps from about 400 commercial customers in the St. Francis, Minnesota area each month. Customers pay 30 percent less to recycle their food waste because it reduces taxes, disposal costs, and fees at landfills. Customers report other benefits such as increased cleanliness and reduced labor costs. Learn more.

MGM Resorts International

MGM Resorts International, a global hospitality provider, has been working to reduce food waste reaching landfills since 2007. They send some of their food scraps from their Las Vegas Strip properties to RC Farms, a pig farm in North Las Vegas with 3,000 pigs. RC Farms follows state requirements for feeding animals by cooking the food scraps before feeding them to the pigs. Learn more Exit EPA.

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