Food Waste Recycling

The Winona Farm is one of 17 licensed waste food feeders in the state of Minnesota. To legally feed waste food to livestock the food must be heated to 212° for 30 minutes. For five years we had been composting the waste food until the Minnesota Pollution Control informed us that food waste is in the same category as industrial waste and to compost it we must follow all manner of regulations. Items such as manure, dead cows, pigs, etc... we can do whatever we want with them, but somehow food off the plate of students and out of institutional kitchen has more pathogens that these other materials?

We now use wase wood and cardboard to cook the feed in a 7' diameter, 3' deep cooking pot, over a fire confined within an 8' diameter, 5' deep tank. It takes about 10 minutes to get the food boiling, and with our cooking system it boils for at least an hour and a half. Cooking really improves the odor of the waste food and the pigs are very excited by their new menu.

A Brief History of Waste Feeding

Feeding of waste food has been around since we first domesticated animals. This was always a logical use of food no longer fit for human consumption. However in the 1950s there was an outbreak of hog illnesses possibly linked to the feeding of uncooked food waste, this brought about a law in the early 60s making all waste feeding illegal. Then in the 80s new legislation came about allowing waste feeding on the condition that the waste is boiled for a minimum of 30 minutes before being fed to swine or poultry.

The Winona Farm took food waste from Winona State University in the 1950s and fed it to hogs. "Progress" stopped this when they modernized and invested in garbage disposal units, but their use is no longer allowed. During the period when feeding waste was not permitted these useful resources became just garbage to be deposited into landfill.

Please Don't Waste Food, Reuse it

Not all farms are permitted to receive food waste. The Winona Farm's service is designed to lawfully provide waste generators a safe, convenient and economical alternative to landfilling food waste.

Our present Customers are pleased with the service we provide and find that using our 32 gallon containers eliminated some of the hazards of compactors and dumpsters, such as smells, flies and bees in the summer months and freezing in winter. Many report that it is much easier for their personnel to fill these containers than their old methods of getting the waste into dumpsters. We provide the containers and you fill them, we then return the containers sanitized ready for refilling.

As well as our service being environmentally the right thing to do, there is a significant saving to our customers. We charge around $35 per ton of waste received, and landfilling costs upward of $70 per ton.

How Do I Work Out My Potential Savings?

A business considering the use of our services should calculate the quantity of food waste they generate each month. This waste must have all plastic, glass, metal and other such non-food wastes separated from it.


Bluff Country Co-op is our smallest commercial producer of food waste; we pick up an average of six barrels a month from them saving them around $250 annually.

Winona State University produces several tons of waste each week and our services save them up to $7,000 annually.

Bluffview Montessori School recycles their food waste using our program, as an added benefit school students can visit the farm and see this waste being returned to the cycle instead of a landfill. They average two barrels a week during the school year, saving the school about $240 a year.

The savings seen by Bluff Country Co-op, Winona State University and St Mary's University are representative of their specific situations. We offer the first two weeks' pick-up free so that you can evaluate our service.

What are we in Winona waiting for?

There are cities doing so much better than we are in reducing all types of waste.  In 1999 we rated below average on the state level and we need to work on setting a better example. We are a small community with the ability to be a role model, not just for the rest of the country, but also for the rest of the world.  Someone needs to take a stand and say that this needless waste has to STOP.  Please do your part in reducing the volume of lost resources in the form of wasted food along with other recyclables.

If not us then who?

A U.S. Department of Agriculture study estimated that 96 billion of the 356 billion pounds of food grown for human consumption in America were lost somewhere between farmers' fields and household disposals.  That is a huge 27% loss of resources, and one that should make us all stop and think!

"The notion that much biodegradation takes place inside a landfill is largely a popular myth ... Some food wastes can degrade but do so at a very low rate of 25 to 50 percent over 10 to 15 years.  The remainder of the food waste may be found to retain its original weight, volume, and form ... It is, in effect, mummified."  William Rathje, The Atlantic Monthly, December 1989.

This food tied up in landfills is a lost resource; it could have been donated to charities to help feed the hungry, fed to animals or composted. Once it is discarded into the dumpster it is lost forever, this conscious act has such an adverse impact on the environment. Changing this one bad habit offers a chance to make a real difference.

We would like very much to get all the schools food waste, not for any great profit; there's little of that once the cost of the truck, fuel, maintenance, barrels, pressure washer etc are figured in, but for the good of the environment. Our time would be more profitable in many other ventures without the sort of resistance we now receive.

If you are interested in participating in our food waste recycling program, call 454 3126 and talk to Dick or Sue or email us at The Winona Farm to arrange a time for us to leave some barrels with you for your two week trial period. On The Winona Farm we are dedicated to serving the needs of waste food generators throughout Winona and assisting with the reduction of their costs. More importantly, we are also dedicated to the environment and do all we can on a local scale to foster improvements in how wastes are processed.

The following information on "Zero Waste" is Copyright 2000 by Gary Liss & Associates, 4395 Gold Trail Way, Loomis, CA 95650, 916-652-7850, All rights reserved. Permission to reprint for nonprofit purposes with attribution and notification to GLA is hereby given.

Is Zero Waste Attainable? Businesses Do It:

ˇ 97% diversion - Mad River Brewing in Northern California
ˇ 95% diversion - Zanker Construction & Demolition Landfill in San Jose, CA
ˇ 97% diversion - Hewlett-Packard in Roseville, CA
ˇ 95% recycling rates at office buildings in the EPA Green Buildings program
ˇ 80-90% diversion rates at many businesses
ˇ Some progressive businesses are now adopting Factor 10 goals to achieve a ten-fold increase in efficiency

State And Local Governments Are On Their Way:

ˇ Many have achieved approximately 50% diversion, in large cities such as Seattle; San Jose; Twin Cities, MN; and smaller cities like Poway in northern San Diego County and Takoma Park, MD.
ˇ The State of New Jersey has reported a 56% statewide diversion rate and the Australian Capital Territory of Canberra has adopted a Zero Waste goal by 2010.
ˇ Halifax, Nova Scotia has adopted a resource management strategy to achieve Zero Waste.

Nature Is The Model:

ˇ Nature does not waste.
ˇ A waste to one species is food or a resource to another.
ˇ Everything is connected.
ˇ We may not get rid of all mines and landfills as we know them today, but we should not design our economy to be dependent on them.

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