Zero Waste restaurants and Chicken Feed

Check out this zero-waste restaurant in Chicago:

The above video featuring Sandwich Me In’s zero waste strategy has gone viral, and owner Justin Vrany is certainly to be applauded. This publicity will hopefully encourage other restaurants and individuals to be more conscious of how much waste they produce.

At first I was critical of this project because composting does not solve all problems and isn’t the most efficient way to dispose of food scraps. However, this concern was answered by the fact that the food scraps are fed to chickens with the remainder going to compost. These same chickens then provide the eggs to the restaurant. This seems like a wonderful closed loop system, and for the most part it is.

As a chicken owner, I can say that chickens make quick work of our would-be compost. It’s wonderful. What isn’t wonderful is the all too easy to develop habit of allowing the chickens to become a crutch. I see something on its last day in the fridge and rather than find a creative use for it, I think, “Well, the chickens will enjoy it.” That may be just dandy for the chickens, but it doesn’t mean my food waste is zero. While still a step up from sending organics to municipal composting or the backyard composter, one could argue that the energy and labour that went into producing the food is still wasted. The chickens would be just as happy pecking away at an apple core as eating a whole tomato that I could have eaten myself, and so the waste of food was ultimately avoidable.

Back to the zero-waste restaurant: I don’t know how much of the food they feed to chickens is avoidable, and I think what they’ve got going on is awesome. I feel challenged to re-evaluate my own food packaging waste production, but also to be more intentional about eating what I bring home and only buying what I can and will eat.

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