photo: J. Novak
Sustainability and food processing don't normally go hand in hand. That's why sustainable, local eats are always better for the planet, because they aren't trucked in and minimal energy is used in production. But in the past year the EPA has made a push towards energy efficiency in the food processing industry, and most recently, has given three food processing companies an Energy Star rating. Three potato processing plants: J.R. Simplot Company's Aberdeen, J.R. Simplot Company's Othelllo, and ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston Inc. have earned EPA's Energy Star rating. This all comes on the heels of a big push in the last year toward energy efficiency in the food processing industry. Last year the EPA announced Energy Star Energy Performance Indicators for the food processing industry. These three potato processing plants combined saved more than $10 million and reduced carbon emissions by 40,000 metric tons, a number which is equivalent to the electricity use of 5,000 homes, according to the press release.
Energy Star Ratings
Any food processing plant in the US can participate in the program. The plants are rated on a scale of 1 to 100 with 50 being average and 75 and above receiving an Energy Star rating. The Energy Star Guidelines outline areas where the most significant efficiency savings can be acquired. When it comes to these plants in particular processing efficiency is critical. The freezing process is one of the most energy intensive operations in their manufacturing. After freezing, the next largest energy consumer is typically the frying process, which consumes a significant amount of fuel (mostly natural gas) to heat the frying oil. Peeling, precooking, cooking, and drum drying are estimated to be very energy intensive processes as well, according to an EPA study. Drum drying is a process used in dehydrated mashed potatoes. The plants above made improvements in three categories: processing, facility, and overall energy management.