The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread wastage ... How does society stop this?

PiPs's picture

Bread wastage ... How does society stop this?


I am only producing a small amount of bread daily as we are starting new product lines and slowly making our presence felt ... but even the tiny amount of daily wastage I produce breaks my heart ... The disenchanted voice on my shoulder worries that bread has no value to so many consumers ... it is as valuable as toilet paper ... sigh ..

Enjoy your bread ... use all of it wisely :)


yy's picture

Amen. Seeing bread thrown away makes me feel sad for the material waste, but also because it feels like a personal insult to the baker who put his time and skill into crafting that loaf. I'd love to see a book dedicated solely to judicious and interesting ways of transforming old bread into new dishes. 

foodslut's picture

.... is making a soaker of leftover bread to throw into the next batch.  I sometimes use odds & ends at a 5-10% baker's percentage in the mix, especially stale ends, and it works great.

yozzause's picture

Hi Phil

look at bread pudding recipes,  even if you give a slice away to your bread customers it will be appreciated, another product is  bread crumbs,  remove the crusts and use the cool heat of oven at the end of the day to dry and stay white. Also your sour dough makes delightfull croutons that can go into soups or where you are into salads for a bit of crunch, even garlic bread made from day old bread, Must be some small resturants that would give these a try, especially if you were willing to give them a free trial for a week or so rather than throwing away perfectly good bread!

kind regards Derek  

golgi70's picture

After getting some to food banks and putting out day olds for the local folks after we close shop we still have returns from our wholesale.  I'm blown away the homeless kitchens won't use all they can get.  None the less i searched for farmers to take and feed their animals.  At least then its being used and not thrown away.  Now our throw away is down to almost nil.  

Local Farm Food beats Toilet Paper


dabrownman's picture

starters so none would never throw away,  Throwing away bread is just plain stupid when we know a hog will eat it all up and squeal for more!    When running big food DC's we were throwing away food that went out of date - lots of it - literally tons.  It was easy to stop this when those responsibkle knew they would lose their jobs if they got caught doing so.

What changed the paradigm was the people who changed or were weeded out for wasteful habits.  Buyers that got free stuff from manufacturers to buy too much from them.... got fired.  Inventory control people that didn't let management, buyers and sales know we were 'hung' with too much of fired,  If we couldn't move it to charities for the poor to eat, then we moved it to farmers for their animals to eat.  Folks will eat the animal later for less cost.

Eventually nothing got thrown away, but it took a culture change about a year to get everyone in the company, all over the country, on board and some personal commitment from people who realized how important not wasting anything was .... at least to those who owned and managed the company.  We realized early on, like most things, people are lazy like me  and will take the easy way out most often if given a chance to do so - a terrible truth.

Nothing was going to change them or me until their job and livelihood was on the line.  Once they knew that - no worries!  We didn't want to work with those odd ducks with weird behaviours anyway - their loss was ever felt and it turned out they were killing us in many other ways that we never knew about - till they were gon, it was all thrown in our faces once it was no longer hidden away..

That is what it takes.  Making rules to live and work by and then holding people accountable if they violate the rules.  Nothing else works.  Sad but true.  But then you reward the ones that get it and do a great job too,

Trying to control things that are outside your own control in the food chain.... will only make you very frustrated.  So gain control of as much of it as you can, as well as, the processes and those folks in it.  Make it, and them, yours - then anything you want to change is possible.  Never forget, most people want to do the right thing when reasonably confronted with it.

I don't worry about these things now but that doesn't mean others shouldn't - at least as much as I once did.  Now don't throw any more food away -people are really starving elsewhere.  You can do it!  Composting is a fine last resort and everything is sustainable with a little effort and sacrifice - two things some folks avoid at all costs :-)  Don't be one of them.

Now go bake a great loaf of bread and enjoy eating every last bite of t!

Janetcook's picture

When I used to work in the schools I couldn't stand being on lunch room duty due to all the wasted food.  Kids would barely touch what was in the bags and the cafeteria food got treated the same way….What eventually happened here to curb the waste was that they allowed fast food into the cafeterias - taco bell, big macs etc but now they see the folly in that due to health concerns due to all the fast food our kids consume now-a-days.   

SOrry to hear it is a global problem.  I am glad I do not work in the schools anymore or the lunch rooms.  My spare bread is given away but my 'spare' bread is generally only one extra loaf a day at most.  Easy to deal with compared to you have to contend with.

Take Care,


PiPs's picture

Lots of good suggestions ...

We have the waste bread collected by a charity ... but the sheer amount nation/world wide that is being collected as a whole is scary. I often pass by hot bread shops and the bread aisle in supermarkets on my way home ... there is just such a sheer amount of bread sitting around ... and this is just tiny ole Brisbane Australia ... kinda scary.

I like what Sullivan St Bakery do and hope to put it into practice soon in our kitchen. They breadcrumb the leftover loaves and use this to dust peels and boards in the bakery ... would add a nice flavour too.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

include zoos and fish ponds.  I think for food sake, the practice of keeping shelves fully stocked until closing hours should be changed.  There would be less waste that way.  

I did almost panic late last Saturday, went into a lone grocery and picked up sliced ham and cheese and was worried there might not be bread.  Did find bread, turned out to be terrible.  That's the stuff that puts down the integrity of good bread, too much trash bread out there that's barely baked and tastes of nothing.  

Am I wrong to think flooding the market with trash makes folks immune to the waste?  If the waste and excess would stop, might overall bread quality improve?  The ingredients are being wasted!  I would like to see the energy that goes into making 10 cardboard loaves go into making one decent loaf.  

I'm spoiled on home made and the wonderful breads made by those who truly care about their bread, the art and energy devoted in presenting a food that is satisfying.  Waste shouldn't have to be a problem.   It is a shame that those big piles of wasted bread everywhere indicate a problem that is ignored.  Do we leave it up to supply & demand?

gary.turner's picture

… decide for our selves what steps we want to take in our own lives. While I am quite confident I could make decisions for everyone else if called on, I am not so sanguine about anyone else being competent to make decisions for me.



MANNA's picture

I re-purpose what doesn't get consumed in our house. I make croutons out of the bread. Then turn some of that into bread crumbs. Those have a long shelf life and can be sold weeks after being made. So you still get money for the bread that didn't sell fresh. You can also use some of it as a soaker into new bread (altus, as Stan has taught us). I also like using my bread crumbs to dust my peels and other stuff. I think it gives better crunch and adds a toast flavor to the breads instead of using cornmeal. So, what doesn't sell fresh can be re-worked, re-packaged and sold as other goods. This limits waste, increases profits and diversifies your product offerings for your customer base.

PastryPaul's picture

We approach this issue from four sides:

We find ways to use stales, we donate stales, we match production to demand (a lot easier said than done), and we educate our customers that there is less selection on slow days.

The main issue I have with that last one is that our slow days have gotten slower, and our busy days busier. 

One of the problems I found was that we are accustomed, both as consumers and bakers, to overproduce to show big selection. On slow days, production is kept low with product piled on top of pate-morte replicas. Displays look plentiful, and now some customers are ordering pate-morte centerpieces for the holidays.


golgi70's picture

And owners behind the big and small bakeries causing this problem.  I worked at a local artisan bakery and the words of the boss were the shelves in all our wholesale markets should never be empty, so at any moment a sale can be made.  So if you have a crew of 8 making 1200 loaves a day (the avg at this bakery) with nearly no cost we can increase that number.  Once you pay for the energy to bake, the employees to be there, the cost of flour water and salt is minimal. 

This is the reason so much extra bread is made.  These businessmen don't care if there is waste as long as they don't miss a sale and they are close to their projections (always aiming over rather than under).  All bout money.  Granted this bakery did a good job of using the old loaves (animal feed, croutons, donation) but there was still a good amount of garbage after all was said and done.  

I like the opposing school of thought which is of course to make a profitable business but to be known for selling out. Make just a bit less than you expect to sell.  As mentioned above this is not easy as business is never totally predictable.  

The bad bread Mini speaks of (plastic bag mass production) is doing the same thing as said boss above but just on a larger scale.  They know they will have waste and its accounted for but never ever should there racks go empty.  If a rep found an empty rack at a store someone would probably be in trouble.  

If and when I ever own a place I think I'll have a crouton and bread crumb recipe put on the bread bags so our customers can see how easy it is.  And in addition maybe sell pre-cut day old ready for making of croutons or breadcrumbs.  

I do like the use Phil has of making it to bread crumbs for dusting of peels and boards but I think for many bakeries/companies this would just come off as unnecessary labor.  

Maybe we can come up with some sort of initiative that we can email to bakeries near and far to help with this "epidemic".  Suggest they all offer their old bread for free to paying customers, offer crouton/breadcrumb recipes, bread pudding ideas etc...  

Just some thoughts



PastryPaul's picture

I don't know about that place you worked at, but for us, and using a baguette as an example, not counting staff and overhead, it costs about $0.26 each to sell at $2.95. Logically, it is better to make ten baguettes to just sell one than to not sell the one. It still bugs me mind you. 

That being said, the measures I implemented are keeping stales to below 11% which I can easily live with.


PastryPaul's picture

I don't know about that place you worked at, but for us, and using a baguette as an example, not counting staff and overhead, it costs about $0.26 each to sell at $2.95. Logically, it is better to make ten baguettes to just sell one than to not sell the one. It still bugs me mind you. 

That being said, the measures I implemented are keeping stales to below 11% which I can easily live with.

BTW: I have absolutely no problem with telling a customer something is sold out. Poop happens. 


gerhard's picture

If you regularly run out at 3:00 instead of 5:00 customers will stop coming at 2:00 and you will still have left over product.  From a business perspective it's an easy decision to produce 10 to 20% over your forecast because once a sale is lost it will never be recovered and it may effect future sales.  

Lots of questions no easy answers.

Is it ethical to produce food you know will be wasted?

By producing less would that help those going without?

Is it ethical for two people to live in a 4,000 square foot house?

How about driving a pick-up truck to pick up a quart of milk?

Air conditioning a house in the summer to 68 F and heating in the winter to 75 F is that o.k.?

You can can only do what you think is right for you but have little impact on others.  In general I believe we are governed by short-sighted self interest so even if something is obviously bad for society in the long run we will do what is beneficial today.


ww's picture

I feel your pain. It pains me even to see bread (not to mention the food) left on plates in restaurants. Somehow when it's free (the bread), people will help themselves to it even when they have no intention of eating.

I've seen bakeries ofter discounted breads or do a 1-for-1 near closing times. This is not without cons
- a sudden crowd at closing time (but if they're buying anyway, it's not so bad??)
- maybe we're just displacing the problem: you don't throw away but the consumer will not finish it and throw it  away at home



gerhard's picture

Is it to maximize profit or to full fill some nobler goal?  

Discounting product just takes away from your brand's perceived value, I would choose to donate to a food bank and post the certificate of appreciation in the store helping more with goodwill then discounting would.  The problem with discounting is when do you decide the cut off is for charging full price and how does the last customer feel knowing they paid full price while the next guy gets it at 50% off.  I think this will hurt business in the long run.

If your main goal is not to be wasteful even if it affects the bottom line then it might be a good strategy 


dabrownman's picture

hardest thing in the food business is getting inventory under control.  Seems like you either have too much or not enough.  Fresh products like bread, produce, milk, cheese and meats are the most difficult to get your arms around.

On problem was with our contracts with the grocery stores where  we had to maintain a 98% fill rate on their orders.  We stocked 35,000 items. Some items like (3) different goat cheeses  covered in different volcanic ash from (3) different Italian volcanoes were not big sellers and if we had one of each in each store that was too much.  60 Kroger stores would have 180 pieces of this cheese in their stores and we might sell 60 - but they would always order way more than we were willing to sell them if we let them do the ordering.  We had to guarantee every sale to the stores or the grocery chain wouldn't allow the item in their store - they had no risk in this set up.

Our own sales folks weren't much help if they did the ordering either since they got paid on their sales.  They would load up the stores with too much perishables to improve their pay checks and we would be writing credits like crazy - manufacturers weren't too happy about that since we billed them back for credits.  We wouldn't carry the manufactures item if they wouldn't guarantee the credit to us.  Still, it was their stuff that wasn't selling but our fault for ordering too much from them and putting too much in the stores.

To fix this mess, we finally started taking the credits out of our sales peoples checks and this helped a great deal.  Good sales people learned to write credits at one store that wasn't selling the items and take them to another and sell them there where they would sell.   They no longer had an incentive to load the stores up but the grocery chains who ordered for their own stores still ordered way too much that eventually went bad.  This can never get fixed unless the chain agrees to lower their store stock on the 80% of items that only make up 20% of the sales - and most likely not to sell before the code date goes bad.

The best thing we could do in these cases was to give the store a credit 7 days before the code date and at least be able to bring it back to the warehouse for re-distribution to food banks before it went bad.

What helped the most to reduce waste by 80% was to monitor it - by person, by store, by item.  Once a standard was developed for waste, What got monitored got fixed - one way or another.  But this was only possible one sophisticated computer inventory control and business enterprise systems became available.

Now we can stop a purchasing person from ordering too much based on past sales history and current stock on hand and lead times.   We know exactly how much we have of each item in the warehouse and exactly where it is and what its code date is so the oldest code date gets rotated into the pick slot  next.  We know how much was ordered and delivered to each store by item and what the codes dates were and what credits per item were written.   We now know what the actual sales were and we can stop orders from leaving the plant for any item out of bounds.

It is hard to believe with the massive waste of food today but we have reduced waste at the stores and food distribution warehouses by 80% over the last 20 years.   What we haven't stopped is manufacturers and producers making too much in the first place, but they to have computer manufacturing and inventory systems and are much better than before.  Then there are the folks who buy too much and don't eat it - there are no computer systems for that.

Stores having too many items that don't sell and keeping the shelves stocked too full on these items and guaranteeing the sale to the store and distributor all need to be handled better to.  It there is no common sense partnership and food waste goals set between the manufacturer, distributor and grocery stores then waste will be higher than it should be.

Don't forget that composting some kinds food waste is a great way to improve your home garden soils.

Sorry to ramble on about these things but food waste bugs me to no end and has cost us all a large personal fortune.