The Food Recovery Hierarchy
October 6, 2021

In an effort to manage food more sustainably, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Food Recovery Hierarchy. The Food Recovery Hierarchy is a reverse pyramid that prioritizes actions businesses and organizations can take to prevent food waste.

food recovery hierarchy

The Six Tiers

There are six tiers listed from most preferred to least preferred in terms of reducing food waste. The first level is source reduction, which reduces the volume of surplus food generated. Businesses and individuals can learn to effectively prevent the flow of wasted flow by inventorying supplies and buying less. The next level is feeding hungry people, which focuses on donating extra food to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters. Priority number three is feeding animals, diverting food scraps to animal food. It’s often cheaper to feed animals food scraps than to take them to the landfill. If none of the previous levels can be accomplished, the EPA encourages using food waste for industrial uses. Waste oils can be used for rendering and fuel conversion along with energy conversion. Composting is the fifth tier, which creates a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Even when all actions have been taken to use your wasted food, certain inedible parts will still remain and can be turned into compost to feed and nourish the soil. And of course, the last resort to dispose of food is landfill/incineration.


The Food Waste Epidemic

A hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, released a statistic stating that 1.6 million Michiganders are facing food insecurity, and before COVID-19, it impacted 37 million Americans. On top of that, in 2019 nearly 30 million children in the country qualified for free or reduced-cost lunches at school. Due to the food waste and insecurity epidemic, we help our suppliers achieve zero waste sustainability goals. We buy nearly all overstock, sometimes even “outdated” food products to sell into secondary outlets, because expiration dates are not safety dates. What we don’t sell, we donate. We also repack meat and dairy products into private labels, which protects the brand and creates more sales opportunities. Our repack facility is one of a few in the country that has earned both USDA and FDA certification.


Natural Choice Foods is dedicated to achieving zero waste sustainability goals and ending the food waste epidemic. Contact us today to buy from us or sell to us in an effort to help our environment.