Local farmer recycles dining hall leftovers
McIntyre collects waste from the residential college dining halls, the Graduate College, the Center for Jewish Life and Quadrangle Club, as well as local hospitals, prisons and supermarkets. He comes to campus four to five times a week during the school year and three times a week during the summer.
At the farm, McIntyre steams the food at 300 degrees Fahrenheit to prepare it for his pigs. The food he collects each day feeds between 600 and 1,000 pigs. “Nothing goes to waste,” he told The Daily Princetonian in 2004. “People eat the tomatoes and lettuce. We feed the leftovers to the pigs, and then we eat the pig. It’s a great big circle.”
“It’s really a great recycling program that benefits both the University and me,” McIntyre added.
Some are concerned, however, that when feeding dining hall scraps to pigs, the scraps may include pork. Serving cow byproducts to cows can cause Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease. Mad cow disease is transferred to humans as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disease that leads to dementia.
To prevent BSE outbreaks, the Food and Drug Administration regulates what can be used in animal feed, but it considers feeding meat intended for human consumption to pigs a safe practice.
The University does not purchase pork directly from McIntyre since he does not process the pork at his farm. “He does however sell to a variety of manufacturers and in the past we understand we have purchased from the same manufacturers,” Dining Services Director Stuart Orefice said in an e-mail.
It is therefore possible that McIntyre’s pigs are eating their peers.
Students have expressed discomfort about this prospect.
“Although I know that the health risks are minimal, it makes me uncomfortable that they’re feeding pork to pigs,” Katherine Gaudyn ’11 said.
Pork is not the only thing inadvertently fed to the pigs. One might wonder what happens to the occasional piece of cutlery that gets dropped into the food bin. Student workers at the dining halls are responsible for bringing the food bins to the loading docks for collection. “When we do notice some paper or some cutlery [in the food], we’ll take it out,” explained Josh Shulman ’11, a student manager for the Whitman dining hall.
“Once in a while [at the farm], a non-food item might slip in, but the pigs generally sort it out, and I clean it out the next day,” McIntyre said.
Before McIntyre took responsibility for the University’s waste, leftover food was sent to landfills, which cost the University $118 per ton of garbage. McIntyre charges $12 for one load of garbage, though he would reduce the cost to $10 if more eating clubs participated in the program.
Jon Baer, director of Building Services, explained that the University produces 600 to 700 tons of food waste per year. The University has saved $20,000 through McIntyre’s program, according to the January 2004 New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability newsletter.
The University has considered more options for food waste disposal, but none has proven as successful as the arrangement with McIntyre.
Several years ago, Tom Szaky ’05, an engineering student, proposed a project that used earthworms to decompose food waste into fertilizer, University Grounds Manager James Consolloy said in an e-mail. Though the program was used in several courtyards and was relatively successful, it caused health and air-quality concerns for nearby residents, Consolloy said.
Other food-composting programs have not been attempted. “One of the most serious drawbacks with composting food waste is contamination with non-vegetative material (animal food waste),” Consolloy said. “This would develop into a serious rodent problem in the composting process.”
Plant waste decomposes into bacterial soil, which can only be used on a few gardens on campus, so even if students separated the food waste into plant and animal products, it would be inefficient to use the plant waste. The Grounds Department, however, puts wood and inedible plant products into composts to be used as fungal soil for trees and shrubs.
“It seems to be more sustainable if we send the pigs the animal food waste from all of our food operations daily ... [but] putting organic matter back on campus is a win-win solution,” Consolloy noted, since it saves money for the University in disposal costs and keeps waste out of landfills.
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