A Thirst-Quenching Solution to Food Waste

Photo: Toast Ale

Photo: Toast Ale

If the threat of global warming is driving you to drink, you could choose a beer that’s helping solve the food waste problem. A British brewer has pioneered the making of beer with fresh surplus bread and donates the profits to a charity fighting food waste. “Toast Ale”, brewed in London and Yorkshire, uses some of the 24 million slices of fresh bread that are discarded every day in the UK. 

Globally, we waste or throw away one-third of all food produced which is 1.3 billion tons a year according to the FAO.  If food waste was a country it would have the third largest carbon footprint (8% of global emissions) after China and the US. And bread is one of the biggest culprits.  As an example, 44% of all bread baked in the UK is wasted.  Why? Obviously, it’s perishable but it is also overproduced because demand is difficult to predict and, apparently, we as consumers want to see a bounty of choice on the store shelves. Food banks turn away donations of bread because there is so much of it.  And we don’t like the crusts, but this British brewer does. 

Toast Ale founder Tristram Stuart, a food waste fighter, started the company as another way to reduce food waste and raise awareness of the problem.  The food waste charity, Feedback, that Stuart also founded, has raised the profile of food waste in the UK to the extent that it has changed government policy and inspired food service companies and food retailers to address the problem.

And, it turns out this is not a new idea. One of the earliest known recipes for beer, made 4,000 years ago, used bread in the brewing process. Toast Ale uses surplus bakery bread for one-third of its malted barley requirements and has brewed up more than one million slices of bread in products such as their “Much Kneaded Craft Lager”.  The brewer is helping to reduce methane GHG emissions that the discarded bread would have produced in landfills. And it has won international beer awards and helped raise awareness by including facts about food waste on its label.

Toast’s brew master Rob Wilson, says that they want to “end food waste one beer at a time”, and that their ultimate mission is to cut off their own supply chain. Toast Ale has partnered with brewers in seven countries including Canada, South Africa, Iceland and the US.  And because Toast Ale wants to spread the word, they have made their brewing recipe publicly available. Forty-three craft brewers now make limited-edition batches of beer made with bread and donate the proceeds to charity.   

Photo: Been A Slice

Photo: Been A Slice

Two craft brewers in Toronto have taken up the challenge.  Henderson Brewing uses surplus bread from the Drake Commissary and donates a dollar per bottle from its bread beer to the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto.  And a collaboration between creative agency, Bob’s Your Uncle, and the Common Good Beer Co., brews “Been A Slice” beer with donations going to the Second Harvest food bank.

So, raise a glass of bread beer to help end global food waste and for more ideas on how to fight food waste, visit this website’s “Take Action” section. 

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