In 2010, UCLA undergraduate student Daniel Kurzrock took up craft brewing as a hobby. He soon realized that with each batch he brewed, he’d also end up with a bunch of excess — or spent — grain. So, Kurzrock started baking bread with the leftover, which he then sold to fund his growing hobby.
“I’ve always been very cognizant of my own waste, so when I started making beer I had about 30 pounds of grain that I was literally dumping into a dumpster every week,” said Kurzrock. “It didn’t feel right.”
This would eventually plant the seeds for startup company ReGrained.
Founded in 2014, ReGrained uses the spent grain from local, Californian breweries to make their own line of snack bars, as well as a line of pop chips, which will come out next month.
To make beer, brewers heat water and grain together, which breaks the starches of the grain down down, eventually fermenting into sugars that become alcohol. But only 10% of the ingredients used to brew beer end up in your glass. This leaves brewers with huge amounts of leftover spent grain. ReGrained tackles this issue with a process called upcycling.
“Upcycling is all about putting resources to their highest possible use,” said Kurzrock. “So what we’re really obsessed with is finding ingredients that are hiding from sight in the food system.”
Kurzrock and his co-founder and fellow UCLA graduate, Jordan Schwartz, have transformed the nutritionally rich spent grain to create a patented flour that they’ve dubbed Supergrain+. They have made the flour available to other producers who want to make upcycled food products (pasta company Barilla is their most notable partner).
Kurzrock is dedicated to reinventing how we think about the food system by creating new uses for seemingly unusable food — but he’s also aware that a staggering 43 percent of our food waste comes from our own homes.
One-third of all the food produced globally in a year is lost or wasted somewhere from farm to fork, resulting in nearly $1 trillion of economic losses every year. This loss contributes to food insecurity, especially in developing countries, and produces 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Kurzrock recommends creating a meal plan and to rethink the ways you use your food. Making simple changes like using the vegetable you’re cooking makes a huge difference — ReGrained’s blog, has suggestions like using carrot tops to make a pesto sauce.
But a lot of food waste also comes down to our buying habits and labeling. Sell-by dates, for example, mark a product’s peak quality, but that shouldn’t always warrant a trip to the trashcan.
“Climate change is multidimensional and it’s a big, scary problem for most people, but food waste is pretty straightforward in a lot of ways,” said Kurzrock. “Just waste less food — it’s better for you and better for the planet.”
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