Annually, the United Kingdom is reported to generate nearly 9.5 million tonnes of food waste, and manufacturers generate 16% of the waste. This includes waste produced at various stages of the food supply chain, such as production, processing, distribution, retail, and residential phases. From the initial raw material to the consumer grabbing a sandwich at the supermarket, this food has undergone a prolonged journey that consumes significant amounts of energy, water, and other valuable resources. Consequently, businesses and consumers must comprehend their social responsibility and recognise the importance of waste reduction throughout food production, aiming to maximise yields while operating within limited resources. Moreover, as an increasing number of food manufacturers embrace automated machinery to enhance production efficiency, understanding how these advanced technologies aid in waste reduction and efficient resource utilisation becomes equally vital.
This blog post will delve into the significance of slicing systems in food production, focusing on how they contribute to reducing waste and optimising resource usage.
Understanding Waste in Food Production
Food production generates several types of waste during the processing stages, encompassing both organic and non-organic components. Organic waste typically includes food scraps, peels, and other plant or animal byproducts. On the other hand, non-organic waste comprises packaging materials, plastics, and other materials used in food processing.
For example, sandwiches, one of the UK’s beloved foods, also contribute to waste. A study conducted by the University of Manchester found that the production of ready-made sandwiches contributes to their carbon footprint in several ways:
|Agricultural Production/ Ingredients Processing||37.3-67.1%|
|Commercial Sandwich System |
(keeping them in the cold chain due to the high risk of contamination)
This study demonstrated that not only does food waste have a significant economic impact, but it also poses a grave environmental concern. As you can probably imagine, waste generated during food production can lead to financial losses for businesses and increased costs for waste disposal. However, the environmental impact is often overlooked, which could involve increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, and strain on natural resources. Addressing these issues is crucial for building a sustainable and responsible food production ecosystem.
Slicing Systems and Their Impact
So, how do automated food technologies, especially slicing systems, reduce waste and improve resource usage? Slicing systems are an integral component of modern food production, offering a range of technologies and methodologies tailored to specific food processing needs. These systems include an array of slicing techniques, including manual, semi-automatic, and fully automated processes. From traditional blades to advanced laser, ultrasonic cutter, or waterjet slicing, each system is designed to achieve precise and consistent cuts in various types of food products.
The impact of utilising these systems in food production is substantial, and here are some reasons why:
Precise slicing and cutting techniques allow for accurate portioning of raw ingredients, ensuring that each portion meets the desired weight or size requirements. This helps minimise overuse or underuse of ingredients, therefore reducing faulty products and overall waste.
Maximised Usable Parts
Food processors can extract the maximum number of usable portions from raw materials by carefully slicing and cutting. This is particularly important in high-value ingredients, where even small amounts of waste can turn into significant financial losses.
Uniformly cut products can be packaged more efficiently, utilising space effectively and reducing excess packaging materials. Properly portioned items also fit better in packaging, reducing the need for extra packaging to fill gaps or accommodate varying sizes.
By employing precise cutting techniques, the integrity of the food’s structure is maintained, delaying spoilage, and extending the product’s shelf life. This preservation ensures that the product remains fresh for an extended period, significantly reducing the likelihood of unsellable products and subsequent waste.
In conclusion, the extensive quantity of food waste generated annually necessitates a proactive approach to reduce waste and maximise yields throughout the food supply chain. As the food industry increasingly embraces automation to boost efficiency, understanding the impact of advanced technologies, such as slicing systems, becomes crucial in achieving these goals.