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Independent.ie

Wednesday 20 September 2017

'Ugly' fruit and veg can be tastier and more nutritious than 'perfect' product

Harvesting potatoes on the Meade Potato Company farm in Co Meath
Harvesting potatoes on the Meade Potato Company farm in Co Meath

Claire McCormack

Human consumption should always be the prime market for "visually impaired" vegetables, a leading potato grower has said.

Meade Potato Company, located in Lobinstown, Co Meath, are one of the first primary producers at farm level to avail of FoodCloud Hubs distribution service.

Based on their family farm the company have been growing, packing and distributing premium quality potatoes, fruit, vegetables, salads and organics over the past five decades.

Each week, FoodCloud collects boxes of their misshapen carrots or slightly blemished potatoes which are then redistributed to charities catering for large groups of people - including homeless charities and residential centres.

Jeni Meade, spokesperson for the company, said they are very excited about the new link-up.

"We've worked with FoodCloud for a long time on food waste awareness and making people aware of how safe and tasty and nutritious some ugly fruit and veg can be," she said.

"And now since availing of the distribution service we feel we are making a real difference," she said.

Although the company also have a long established relationship with Cross Care Food Bank, who also collect surplus food to donate to charities, Ms Meade says the more they can contribute the better.

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"Human consumption would always be the prime market for our surplus vegetables because they have higher value and it's also better for the environment".

"We have to acknowledge and plan for the looming problems that the world is going to face with trying to feed all the people on the planet. As producers we need to think about using our resources as wisely as possible and to us trying to get out food to better markets to feed people is really important," she said.

Despite appearances, Ms Meade insists that some skewed vegetables and fruits can be even more delicious.

"We send off potatoes that might have a growth crack which happens naturally, it never affects their safety or eating value or nutrition or it could be some mechanic damage that happened when we were harvesting,"

"On a particularly dry year we might find a few potatoes have a little bit of scab which occurs naturally, it just means it's a bit dryer but can actually be a better tasting, fluffy potato," she said.

Ms Meade says consumers have set the bar very high for retailers and supermarkets.

"Consumers want perfect looking produce all the time and luckily because farming is so good you can deliver that but you do have some that will ultimately come up short," she said.

Helen Finnegan, Regional Development Co-ordinator at FoodCloud Hubs, said the human food chain should always be the first solution for surplus food.

"We're not trying to get farmers to produce food for free, our objective is that there is always going to be a certain amount of surplus, you're never going to have a situation where there isn't, but when it occurs it should firstly go for human consumption rather than animal waste or landfills," she said.

"We would absolutely encourage other farms and primary producers to consider the option and to get in touch. We have a fleet of vans so we have the capacity to go and collect, we're always trying to look at the most environmentally friendly option, we're very flexible about how we do that but basically if the food is there we get it," she said.

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