Blogging (at least for me) is about externalising internal thought. Writing down sometimes dis-jointed brain musings, connecting them together and then releasing them into the world.
Today my collated strand of thought is centred on waste – both food waste, and waste efficiency being a small food producer.
Hibernating for the Winter to avoid Waste
First a bit of news – we’re turning off the weekly Deli-craft bake for the off peak winter season [so no Saturday Sourdoughs from hereon till April 18]. We’ve very much cherished the ability to get our sourdoughs on our local high street each week via our local deli, but we’ve seen sales drop now the Fort William core tourism season has stopped, and we need to justify the potential food waste [and indeed energy waste of turning on the oven]. So we’re going to take the winter season to hibernate, and we’re be back full steam in the Spring.
Fun fact to end the 2017 high street season on – we reckon the equivalent of 300-400 large sourdough loaves [0.3-0.4tonnes of dough!] have been sold via our link with our local deli over an 8 month period during 2017 – that’s equivalent to 38 loaves a month or 10 a week. A small drop in the “12 million loaves of processed bread sold each day in the UK”. But it cheers our dough ball hearts that of the “99 bread products purchased per household each year” some of those were plain honest sourdough purchased over a local independent counter.
To make a 800g loaf of bread, you need to make 960g of dough. After baking, it will weigh in just over the 800g mark. Flour is the prime ingredient, and you need say 575g of flour (at 65% hydration) to get a piece of 960g dough (accounting for a bit of salt). With that math, a 25kg sack of flour could potentially become 43.5 large 800g loaves. A quick add up shows this year doughies has had 501kg (0.5tonne) of flour go thru its wee bake-house – enough for 871 large loaves if we had been 100% efficient. But we have not turned over cash equivalent to that dough – and one reason is flour waste. Not all the flour we buy ends up as bread. Flour leaches off along the way as follows:-
- Some flour doesn’t make it out the bag (i.e. bag spilt on floor, leftovers in the nook at the end of the bag etc).
- Some flour gets used as table flour – used by the baker to dust hands and bench for dough work ability,
- Some flour is used in our proofing baskets to prevent sticking
- Some flour is used on our peels for sliding loaves into the oven
I don’t know the wastage as a number – I would be interested to keep a better eye on it next year, and/or find out what other small micro bakeries allow for, but I would hazard a guess that 5-10% of the flour is potentially wasted between flour bag and finished loaf.
When we do a bake, not all bread is sold. In particular, speculative sales in a shop or market table (where we have done a bake but now knowing who is going to be the end buyer/eater).
Because bread has a shelf life, once its baked there is a window to sell said loaf before it is deemed “waste bread”. Sourdough is pretty cool in this regard, being a fermented food, so has a long window where it is saleable- but ultimately at some point our sourdough is culturally downgraded to waste – in our case baker toast, raw beer ingredient or pig food.
The other component is what bread we do sell, not all will eaten – I think generally speaking household food waste is reducing, but the figures you read are pretty shocking (the % you buy vs the % you eat / that ends up in the bin/landfill). I do sometimes wonder how many heels of sourdough don’t make it into our stomachs? Bread has been downgraded/de-valued in society such that it is not cherished as the high value, nutritious staple it could be.
Prepaid Models to avoid Waste Bread
Waste bread is I think doughies biggest % loss (both monetarily and in terms of energy loss) as a small food producer. The other reasonable % loss (monetarily) in our bread is commissions (i.e. market table fees, paypal fees, wholesale prices) – to that end we’ve been experimenting and thinking about versions of community supported food this year. The local vegbox food hub (FWOFH) is an example of this. They operate effectively as a buying group / food exchange – virtually stocking our bread, and then we get bi-weekly pre-orders. There is no waste, every loaf we shape and load into the oven is already sold.
Other pre-paid model experiments this year is our Darachbeg Croft beefshares this season, where we sold 1.5 cow worth of #beefshares to local people – who pre-ordered ahead of slaughter in a CSA type model and indeed our #ryeshare pitch to Dragons Glen to developing a local rye bread is at its core the idea to pre-order bread ahead of planting / baking it.
I think there are two big barriers to these pre-paid models is:-
b) Accessibility & buying habits.
I think trust takes time, but doughies has been around locally for a while now, and trust is (I hope) building. Accessibility and buying habits remains an issue. The rise of supermarket shopping has been fuelled by ease of access, which is now habitual. We are all used to 24/7 access to any food produce, regardless of season. Local food isn’t accessible 24/7, and range of food produce is limited to locality / time of year. Local food won’t beat the supermarkets until it is accessible and buying habits change as access improves.
One access model I was discussing with a fellow local the other day was the idea to start doing scheduled doughies collection points on a regular basis [give me a shout if this would be of interest]. Ridgedale Permaculture, a market garden, utilise this in Sweden, not that dis-similar to the highland topography. The concept is their produce (in there case meat, veg and eggs produced on a remote farm) is pre-ordered, and dropped off at car park collection points (1hr time slots) on a bi-weekly delivery run.
Waste growing grain for Bread
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Sheffield published a paper on the environmental impact of producing a loaf of bread. Disclaimer – I haven’t read the paper itself, published in the nature plants journal – but news articles covering the paper publishing unsurprisingly show that most (43%) of the environmental impact of a loaf of bread occurred in growing the grain, specifically the use of fertiliser to grow it. This was followed by milling, and lastly by our stage – baking it.
This is one of the reasons we’re really keen to kick start a local grain (rye) growing movement – most of the the waste / environmental footprint of a loaf of bread (including ours) occurs at the soil/growing stage. Keep that close, keep that organic, and not only will we have a loaf with true local provenance, we should have kept the environmental footprint low as possible.
Waste delivering Bread
We deliver bread in our beloved VW Syncro van called Mog. There is undoubtedly waste delivering bread in a car – petrol (or in our case LPG), vehicle wear and tear, worn tyres etc – we try coincide our bread delivery vehicle movements with other town tasks to minimise impact, but we cannot avoid that there is waste in delivering bread by car – it is also against our founding ingredients (3. tread lightly) – I’ve been musing about using my bike more for personnel & business use – so much so that I fixed my 10 year old bike up this month. I was humoured to find the below brain chart of bike usage. Where are you on the scale? I think I’m somewhere between “2. Biking is hard” & “3. Biking is Fun and saves money.” But I think I could easily get to “4. Biking Can Save the World”. In the doughies/local food delivery context, there is though the considerations about bike equipment to move cargo (and keep it dry – no one likes a soggy sourdough) but it can be overcome – perhaps soon you might see a doughies bike train like this guys market garden delivery setup?
Whoa – that’s a lot about waste – time to stop…
Sorry that’s a lot of brain musing about waste. But as a small local food producer, it is important for us to consider sources of waste (in time, money, raw materials and effort) and utlimately trim out any waste, so we become a lean small micro producer – lower costs, high quality, happier us and importantly happier you.