Back in March 2021 we met up with La Sirene’s Founder and head brewer Costa Nikias and headed up to Sunland fruit farm in Cobram, on the Murray River, where we proceeded to watch fruit being picked…I mean…we proceeded to pick fruit for some special collaborations we had been brewing up! Today at noon we are releasing two very special collaborations; An Aussie Wild Ale with Plums and an Aussie Wild Ale with Raspberry and Peach!
AND THAT’S NOT ALL! Purchase a 6 pack of the La Sirene x Carwyn Cellars collab wild ales and enter a draw be one of x3 lucky winners to take home a MAGNUM of the Plum Wild Ale!
The fruit used for these collabs weren’t just any fruit though, they were ‘ugly’ fruit ie: fruit that the supermarkets will reject be it too small, weirdly shaped, discolored…it doesn’t matter whether the fruit is still perfectly acceptable, and even delicious to consume – the plums were out of this world they just weren’t big enough to be sold through a grocery store.
You may have heard of a small little food waste problem the world is having. According to the Australian Government (https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/food-waste):
- “One third of the world’s food is wasted.”
- “25% of water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is ultimately wasted - throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90 minute shower.”
- “Food waste produces eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste was a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the USA and China.”
- “Food waste costs the economy around $20 billion each year.”
- “Each year we waste around 7.3 million tonnes of food - this wastage equals about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries.”
- “Food waste accounts for more than five per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.”
This discussion extends far past what we’re going to cover…this appears to be a trend throughout these Schmooze Letters cause the subject of alcohol is fascinating and leads to a gazillion rabbit holes…or maybe a field that looks like its been attacked by gophers…anyway we digress…where were we? Oh yes! food waste is a really big problem for our environment and therefore for us.
The minuscule part of this problem (which extends from farmers to processing and packaging to marketing and corporate greed to government regulation to you the consumer) that we’re going to focus on is food that has been deemed too unattractive to sell in grocery stores. It is important to state that not all ‘ugly’ produce can go to market, if a piece of produce is quickly breaking down due to bruises or other natural decomposition, it has the potential to rot all other produce in its crate, meanwhile produce that have fallen to the ground have potential to cause food-poisoning. Farmers cannot risk this damage to their livelihood.
Its also important to state that not all ‘ugly’ produce is wasted. Farms will plow unfit produce and its parts back into the soil at the end of harvest which gives the soil more nutrients and support. Sunland is a company that is working to implement progressive practices, they even have a turtle rehabilitation wetland on their acreage (we felt this very important to note), and reducing their waste. If safe to do so, their rejected produce will be turned into animal feed.
It is impossible to deny, however that lots of produce is still just plain discarded due to not being pretty enough, and , the ‘ugly’ food problem is not just in the hands of the farmers, in fact, you might say its far from them. In a 2016 article in The Age by Carol Richards and Bree Devin “the strict ‘quality’ standards required by the Coles and Woolworths duopoly means that a large volume of food does not reach the supermarket shelves. This is produce that does not meet size, shape and appearance specifications – such as bananas that are too small, or apples that are too red. If producers do not agree to meet these standards, they will lose access to approximately 70-80 per cent of the fresh food market in Australia.
Second, the two major food retailers do not take ownership of produce until it passes inspection at the distribution centres. It is here where suppliers, such as farmers and growers, are “invited” - under the supermarket’s corporate social responsibility initiatives - to donate rejected food to rescue organisations at their own cost, or otherwise pay for further transportation or dump fees.
Thirdly, in an effort to reduce the high levels of food wasted at the farm gate, Australian supermarkets [market] “ugly” food - food that does not meet strict cosmetic standards, but is still perfectly edible.”
And who deemed it not pretty enough? Well? We did. If consumer habits showed that misshapen, undersized or discoloured produce would turn a profit then grocery stores would sell them. After all ‘ugly’ produce is no less nutritious and no less delicious than ‘pretty’ produce. If its safe to do so, why not eat it? Here’s where the catch-22 comes in, because why do we, the consumers, think that ‘ugly’ produce is unfit for our consumption? Because ‘pretty’ produce is what’s being made available to us, ‘pretty’ produce is what’s being marketed to us.
And on top of that, ‘pretty’ produce is being marketed to us as higher status, as if by purchasing something that doesn’t look picture perfect you are purchasing a lesser product and therefore you, somehow are lesser. What happens then? ‘Ugly’ produce goes for a lesser price. What happens then? Busineseses and farmers fear for the effects on their profits.
What an absolute pickle. *Talk about an ugly, but delicious, cucumber*
So we decided to do a little something about it in our own beery way, and purchase that ‘ugly’ fruit at its source. We decided to take these underappreciated plums, raspberries and peaches and make some wicked Aussie Wild Ales with them, and we can’t wait to share their delicious imperfections with all of you!
Chavie Lieber. “Food Waste: A Scientist Explains Why Ugly Produce Won’t Solve It.” Vox, Vox, 26 Feb. 2019, www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/26/18240399/food-waste-ugly-produce-myths-farms.
“Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.” Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste/food-waste.
Kane, Annie. “Australia’s 7.5m Tonnes of Food Waste: Can ‘Ugly Food’ Campaigns Solve the Problem?” The Guardian, The Guardian, 2 Aug. 2018, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/06/australia-75m-tonnes-food-waste-ugly-food-solve-problem.
Richards, Carol, and Bree Devin. “Powerful Supermarkets Push the Cost of Food Waste on to Suppliers, Charities.” The Age, 2 Mar. 2016, www.theage.com.au/opinion/powerful-supermarkets-push-the-cost-of-food-waste-onto-suppliers-charities-20160302-gn87q4.html. Accessed 17 Aug. 2021.
Taber, Sarah. “Perspective: Farms Aren’t Tossing Perfectly Good Produce. You Are.” The Washington Post, 8 Mar. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2019/03/08/feature/farms-arent-tossing-perfectly-good-produce-you-are/.