A task force created by the Upcycled Food Association defined upcycled food to help companies identify their ingredients as helping to reduce food waste. The association, a nonprofit of upcycled food companies focused on reducing food waste by growing the upcycled food economy, was created in 2019. The task force, which include researchers and professionals from across industry, government, nonprofit and academia defined the term as: "Upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment."
The task force also produced a summary paper, which explains the definition elements:
- Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination. According to the Food Loss and Waste Protocol, the food waste destinations are when food ends up in places like incinerators, as animal feed, or in landfill. By avoiding these destinations, upcycled food makes better use of the energy expended in growing, transporting, and preparing that food. With 8% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions coming from food loss and waste, reducing food waste is considered the single greatest solution to food waste according to Project Drawdown.
- Upcycled foods are value-added products. Globally, about $1 trillion is lost each year on food that is wasted or lost. Upcycled food captures that value and leverages it to create a sustainable and resilient food system.
- Upcycled foods are for human consumption. It is all about elevating food to its highest and best use, but upcycled ingredients also could be included in animal feed, pet food, cosmetics, and more.
- Upcycled foods have an auditable supply chain. With 28% of agricultural land going to grow food that is never eaten, the auditable supply chain ensures that upcycled food is truly helping to reduce waste by utilizing all the nutrients grown on farms, helping farmers get more value out of their land. It will help to feed a growing population without increasing deforestation or putting extra pressure on the environment.
- Upcycled foods indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels. More than half of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods. Labeling these foods gives people the ability to vote with their dollars to end food waste. By indicating which ingredients are upcycled, consumers know they are spending their money in a way that aligns with their values.
A detailed summary of the task forces findings is available at Defining Upcycled Foods: A Definition and Standards for use across Industry, Government, and Academia.