Many recipes utilize common cuts of meat and produce, leaving valuable parts of animals and veggies to go to waste. However, Campus Dining Services continues its sustainability initiatives by striving to utilize whole animals and produce to minimize waste on farms and support local businesses. The project began during the summer of 2019 and has evolved into a larger project throughout the campus dining halls.
Dining Services communicates with various farmers on what produce items are being harvested. For example, in Upstate New York, produce like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and romesco are harvested between late September to the end of November. The farmers will offer the University all of the leaves and stems harvested, to which Dining Services gladly obliges. Once they receive large bins of whole produce, chefs separate parts of the product and plan how to use the different pieces. While there is an initial challenge of getting familiar with uncommonly used parts of produce, Dining Services conducts meetings to analyze products and test them in the kitchens before serving them.
This partnership between farmers and the University helps reduce waste on fields. Instead of leaving vegetable leaves to rot in the soil, the University gives the whole vegetable a purpose. There is also a nutritional benefit to using the entire vegetable. The greens of cauliflower and broccoli have more nutritional value than the head of the plant, which is what would be purchased at a grocery store.
Similarly, Dining Services utilizes whole animals rather than ordering specific cuts of meat and typically uses ten hogs and one cow each month. As shown below, a hog offers different types of meat that the chefs can use in their recipes. The goal is to utilize all cuts of one animal before moving to another, preventing good cuts from turning into ground meat.
The whole animal and produce utilization initiative encourage the University community to indulge in tasty meals while promoting the sustainability of local resources and business. “The benefits are enjoying incredibly high-quality, local products. These ingredients from the animals to the vegetables have been treated with the utmost respect. We are reducing animal waste and vegetable waste while increasing the productivity of the farmers and the distributors,” says Executive Chef, Tony Pignagrande. The ingredients are free of any additives, preservatives, and are all-natural.
Dining Services has been partnering with local farmers and this number continues to rise with partnerships with local farms and Headwater Food Hub, an organization that partners with New York State farmers to bring fresh food to restaurants and universities year-round. The whole animal and produce initiative is another way the University is bringing the community together and making the planet “ever better.”
Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022