Food Waste in an Airline Caterer's Production Kitchen
Academic interest in the topic of food waste is building as a range of disciplines, including Dietetics and Foodservice Management, explore ways to reduce the amount of food unnecessarily sent to landfill. The social, economic and environmental costs of food waste are well documented. Perhaps most shockingly, many people face hunger and poverty every day, yet of the four billion metric tonnes of food produced worldwide, as much as 50% never reaches the consumer. In developed countries, most waste occurs in food retail outlets, consumer’s homes, and in foodservices. Foodservices dispose of as much as 20% of the food they procure and therefore are a focal setting for food waste research. The majority of foodservice waste research has been on waste quantification and consumer plate waste. A foodservice sector whose waste has not yet been investigated is the airline catering industry, which globally produces more than 600 million meals each year. This is surprising, given industry dynamics and activities, provide an environment in which large quantities of food waste can occur. For example, tightly regulated food safety and quality, and catering to multiple airlines, each with their own menu and expectations. Additionally, there is variation between size, class, lengths of flights, and time of day as well as dietary requirements to cater for. This study investigates the food waste in two centralised production kitchens of an in-flight service provider, focusing not only on how much is being wasted but where is it being wasted and why. A mixed methods approach was employed using waste audits, observations, document analyses and staff interviews. This allowed the quantification of wasted food and exploration of the drivers behind waste generation. Data collection tools and analysis procedures were structured using a production processes and systems approach. Audit results revealed this case study kitchen produced more food waste than is typical in other foodservices. Fifty-seven percent of the total waste was found to be food waste, much of which came from raw or in-house cook product. The qualitative results found three major themes that contributed to food waste generation; (1) issues with menu development and forecasting, (2) staff attitudes and (3) staff behaviours. Reducing food waste has the potential to save significant food and labour costs and improve a company’s social and environmental impacts. Recommendations for reducing or diverting food waste included creating an ‘environmental champion’ or waste management position, dedicating an ingredient room or 'mise en place’ function, involving staff in a range of waste management strategies and managing airline menus to use food more efficiently. As well as being transferable to other airline caterers, it is envisioned many of these strategies could be applied to other large foodservice operations; in particular, those adopting ‘Lean’ principles and those operating in manufacturing style production. Further research could build on this study by determining the cost of wasted food and associated losses (e.g. labour), exploring airline and supplier attitudes to food waste in airline catering, and assessing the application of waste prevention strategies identified in this study.
Advisor: Mirosa, Miranda; Spence, Heather
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: food waste; airline catering; foodservice; in-flight service provider; production waste
Research Type: Thesis