Reducing Food Loss: Lessons from Bangladesh’s Dairy Sector
Improper food preparation, processing, storage and transportation play a major role in food wastage, which contributes to food shortages, water stress, deteriorating biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions increases. Globally, nearly 15 percent of food produced is lost or wasted, causing 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, food waste contributes to environmental pollution and is one of the key reasons for global climate change.
Bangladesh wastes about 5.5 percent of the total food. To help lower this rate, the Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock and Nutrition Activity, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, works to ensure a greater standard of hygiene practices and food safety among dairy producers. This reduces wastage and provides consumers with access to safer, high-quality food products.
The Activity does so by working to improve on-farm interventions through the adoption of technology and practices that prevent the contamination of milk and meat products and reduce waste. Modernizing milk collection centers and improving cold chains are the Activity’s key strategies to reducing such wastages, especially for fresh milk, which is highly perishable.
Examining Biproducts and Their Environmental Impact
According to the country’s Department of Livestock Services, livestock contributes to 1.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has a 3.1 percent GDP growth rate. Livestock also accounts for 16.52 percent of the national agricultural GDP. In the Feed the Future Zone of the Jashore, Barishal, Khulna and Cox’s Bazar districts, 286 traditional, small- and medium-scale dairy processors produce fresh cheese (channa) to prepare diversified sweetmeats with acid whey as the primary bi-product. Acid whey is the liquid remaining after fresh milk has been curdled and strained. According to the Activity’s assessment of local dairy processors, acid whey consists of approximately 4.59 percent of the total production, which is generally unprocessed and disposed of with wastewater.
Acid whey contains various nutritional compositions, such as milk solids, lactose, protein , fat and calcium. Wasting it results in a loss of nutrition; it also causes pollution. Because of its high biological and chemical oxygen demand, acid whey causes a rapid increase in the growth of microorganisms that deplete the oxygen needed for other life in fresh water. To reduce this wastage and environmental impact, the Activity is training dairy processors to use the remaining acid whey to produce fresh cheese called channa. Similarly, farmers are learning to turn sweet whey derived from mozzarella production into a local dairy drink called matha and clarified butter, or ghee.
Enacting Food Safety and Hygiene Practices for Dairy
To further reduce dairy food loss, the Activity is training owners of micro and small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to develop value-added and diversified dairy products (mozzarella cheese, yogurt, labang, and borhani). MSMEs are also receiving capacity building training on quality assurance, food safety and hygiene practices, regulatory requirements, shelf life and packaging. The Activity is exploring opportunities to link MSMEs with chain shops, online shops and hotels to sell diversified milk products.
Handwashing to Prevent the Spread of Disease
To reduce the spread of zoonotic diseases, the trainees are also being made aware of pathogens that can spread between livestock and humans. These pathogens are often passed during food preparation. In fact, microbial contamination of milk and dairy products represents 8 percent of all wasted food, 55 percent of which is caused by poor consumer hygiene. Regular handwashing lowers the spread of disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, handwashing can prevent 30 percent of diarrheal diseases and 20 percent of respiratory illnesses. In December 2021, the Activity found the handwashing rate with water and soap is 26 percent before milking, 67 percent before handling meat, 79 percent after managing manure, and 57 percent after bathing the cow. Foreseeing the potential benefits, the Activity included handwashing as an important Social and Behavioral Change (SBC) component in its interventions.
Changing Behaviors to Reduce Food Loss and Wastage
These SBC interventions promote awareness and draw upon national and international best practices for reducing dairy and meat loss and wastage. At the household level, the Activity disseminates awareness messages to build responsible behavior in improved storage techniques of milk and meat products, standardization of cooking and serving sizes, and portion control, which help minimize food wastage. The MSMEs are also provided with capacity building training on food safety and hygiene practices, focusing primarily on behavioral change, to influence them and their customers in the long run.