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Take Ugly Food Up a Notch

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    Tyler Malek enjoys a scoop of ice cream made with upcycled ingredients. (Handout)
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    Tyler Malek scoops “Day-Old Bread Pudding” ice cream in Los Gatos, California,. (AP/Haven Daley)
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    Angie Crone, Upcycled Food Association CEO, right, speaks to a mushroom farmer who sells “ugly” produce at a farmers’ market in San Francisco. (AP/Haven Daley)
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    People sit in the outdoor dining area of Shuggie’s Trash Pie restaurant in San Francisco, California. The restaurant uses upcycled ingredients. (AP/Jeff Chiu)
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    A garlic knot at Shuggie’s Trash Pie restaurant (AP/Jeff Chiu)
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Tyler Malek is taking the “trash-to-treasure” notion to new heights. He crafts gourmet ice cream from cast-off ingredients. As upcycled food becomes more common, it seems everyone is rethinking food.

Each year, more than 35 million tons of food head to U.S. dumpsters. That’s about 40% of the entire country’s food production! All that tossing-out wastes big bucks. It also shows disregard for one of God’s great blessings: food. (Genesis 1:11, 9:3)

Food upcycling is becoming a popular, waste-reducing U.S. trend. Rather than simply recycling (using again), the term refers to the process of creating high-quality products from leftover food and byproducts.

Manufacturers of ice cream and cake to veggie chips and pizza are including uncommon ingredients like ugly fruits and nut mash in their products.

“A lot of the food that is uneaten or thrown away in our supply chain is actually due to archaic cosmetic standards,” says Upcycled Food Association CEO Angie Crone. That means, basically, that shoppers want good-looking produce. They shun misshapen apples or oranges with blemishes on the peel.

Malek is head ice cream maker at Salt & Straw. The ice cream chain is at the forefront of the food upcycling movement.

Salt & Straw launched an innovative ice cream series this year. The menu features flavors like “Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato” made from leftovers of the cocoa-making process. Another is “Day-Old Bread Pudding & Chocolate Ganache” made from—you guessed it!—unused bread.

For his “Upcycled Food Series,” Malek crafted flavors in cooperation with other companies that also rescue wasted food. “Each ice cream flavor uses groundbreaking recipe development tactics and tells a unique story about different ways brands and people alike can rescue wasted food,” proclaims the Salt & Straw website.

Renewal Mill turns plant-based milk byproducts into flour and other baking products. “Our first product is the pulp leftover from making soy milk. We turn that into a high fiber gluten-free flour called okara flour,” co-founder Caroline Cotto says.

Salt & Straw’s new “Salted Caramel & Okara Cupcakes” flavor features the flour.

Today, about 450 products have received upcycling certified seals from the Upcycled Food Association.

The upcycled food movement also reaches pizza parlors. One San Francisco restaurant embraces upcycled ingredients such as ugly mushrooms, twisted peppers, and offcuts of meat for their pies.

Malek is doing his part for the movement. He says, “Instead of calling this food waste, we need to call it wasted food and start decreasing how much wasting we’re doing.”

Why? God provides food for nutrition and pleasure. Good stewardship includes being careful with resources.

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