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Meat start-up focused on cutting food waste plots grocery debut

DO Good Foods, a meat producer that uses recycled food waste to make supplemental animal feed, is poised to roll out its first product after securing a $169- million investment from asset-management giant Nuveen.

The newly formed company used the capital to build a production facility in Pennsylvania that will process 160 tons of surplus food daily. With the plant now built, Do Good expects its chicken to hit supermarket shelves in January, with other types of meat to follow.

The forthcoming chicken line will help cut grocery waste while enabling “everyone to be part of the solution,” said Justin Kamine, Do Good’s cofounder and co-chief executive officer. The chicken will be priced “well below” the cost of organic, he said.

The Bedminster, New Jersey-based company aims to tackle issues of food spoilage by collecting excess groceries that can’t otherwise be donated from a network of supermarkets, hauling them to a nearby facility and converting the food into feed. That then ends up in animal diets in the meat supply chain.

As much as 40 percent of the food produced in the US is never eaten. Most of that goes to landfills, generating emissions that contribute to climate change. By some estimates, food waste produces about 8 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gases. While people’s homes are the largest source of waste, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses account for about 40 percent, food-loss nonprofit ReFED estimated in 2016.

The company’s first production facility, in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, will process food collected from 450 supermarkets within about a 200-mile radius. The plant can make enough feed for 25 million chickens annually, and will divert approximately 4 pounds of surplus grocery food from landfills per chicken.

Do Good plans to build 20 such facilities by 2025.  

Sam Kass, chief strategy officer at Do Good Foods and the former chef and senior policy adviser on nutrition to then-President Barack Obama, says he was attracted to the company because of its growth potential. “I saw the chance to do something really at scale.”

While reducing food waste in grocery stores and the environmental footprint of livestock feed are important goals, assuming that the activities of a company like Do Good are sufficiently sustainable “presents a few red flags,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. Chicken production itself comes with an environmental cost, said Molidor, who’d like to see more done to prevent supermarket waste in the first place.

The company is awaiting certification through the Global Animal Partnership on animal welfare standards, but did not name any environmental benchmarks that the chicken production would meet.

Kass defended the model, saying that his company’s efforts complement retailers’ work to end food waste. He added that humans aren’t going to give up eating meat.

“The reality is people are going to eat animal protein,” he said. “We see here an opportunity to provide a fundamentally better product.”

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