Japan: More Leftovers Recycled for Animal Feed

by 5m Editor
24 July 2008, at 3:52pm

JAPAN - What with prices for animal feed and fertilizer rising, the Japanese food-recycling sector is seeing high demand for pellets for pigs and poultry made from recycled leftovers.

Japan throws out about 20 million tons of food waste a year - that's about five times as much as world food aid to the needy last year. This waste is reported to have been thrown in landfills where they would decompose and produce methane, also known as marsh gas.

But since 2001, government acts have encouraged the opening of recycling industries where food wastes are converted to animal feed and fertilizer. If not, the leftovers are shipped to methane gas producing facilities for power industrial plants.

"Given higher fuel and feed prices, the business is on the rise now," said Yasufumi Miwa, researcher at Japan Research Institute.

According to the International Herald Tribune, farmers have been somewhat hesitant about using recycled animal feed, but they are slowly warming up to the idea, the reason being that recycled feed is about half the price of regular feed.

A pig farm in Akita Prefecture, in northern Japan, has compensated for a 20 percent leap in compound feed prices in the past year by making its own recycled feed from leftovers disposed of by local food manufacturers.

"We could have faced a critical situation this year if we didn't produce feed by ourselves," said Hideki Sato, a spokesman at Sugayo, which raises 20,000 pigs.

The feed is not used for cattle or sheep because of strict health regulations that were imposed to prevent mad cow disease.

Food recyclers often use wastes/leftovers from convenience stores and restaurants, where strict health laws make it mandatory for unsold items to be thrown out at the end of the day.

Japan imports about 75 percent of its feedstocks from countries abroad. It is known to be the world's biggest importer of corn as animal feed.

But recent increased costs due to high corn and soy meal prices - the main ingredients in animal feed - have brought up demand for recycled feed. But it still accounts for only 1 percent of feedstocks in Japan, or about 150,000 metric tons, or 165,000 tons, in 2006, double the amount in 2003.

A revised recycling law introduced in December sets gradually increasing recycling targets for companies that dispose of more than 100 metric tons of food waste a year, adding to their incentive to work with feed-recycling companies.

Japan's food industry recycles more than 70 percent of leftovers. About half is converted to feed, less than 5 percent into methane and the remaining 25 percent into fertilizer.

Local governments, which incinerate waste to reduce volume before dumping in landfills, are now trying to produce alternative energy from the waste. Methane from food waste is used to generate electricity in some parts of Japan.

"A blind test of pork shows respondents tell the difference immediately," said Hiroyuki Yakou, a former garbage truck driver, who now owns a food recycling company. "That's because the fat of our pork is sweeter than usual. Another effect of tasty feed is that hens produce more eggs than usual."

5m Editor