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Food To Farm
Mohegan Sun food-waste-to-farm program diverts 1,000 tons of food scraps annually.
By Janice Cha

Mohegan Sun Food To Farm food scraps program
In 2010, Mohegan Sun sent about 1,100 tons of food scraps to the Millaras Piggery in nearby Waterford, Connecticut. Between 2002 and 2010, the casino resort’s total food waste diverted from landfill has tallied approximately 13,250 tons.

Mohegan Sun Food To Farm food scraps program
Food waste processing in pot and warewashing areas involves the use of Somat pulpers. Mohegan Sun’s six Somat machines help extract excess liquid from food waste by pulping it and spinning out excess water before it’s emptied into pig barrels.

Mohegan Sun Food To Farm food scraps program

Mohegan Sun Food To Farm food scraps program
Staff members put plate scrapings and other food waste into motion in the food recycling program. Steel barrels are filled to the three-quarters point to prevent spilling during transport and are stored in loading dock coolers to prevent spoilage and protect from vermin.

Green long before the idea became a movement, the Mohegan Sun casino resort, opened in 1996 by the Mohegan Indian tribe in Uncasville, Connecticut, operates a comprehensive recycling program encompassing everything from paper, plastic, cans, bottles, wood, and metal to food waste and used oil.

Mohegan Sun’s food waste program in particular is noteworthy. An agreement started in 1996 with Millaras Piggery in nearby Waterford, Connecticut, has had the win-win effect of reducing food-waste tipping fees for the resort by sending it to the farm where it’s converted into food for pigs.

In 2010 alone, Mohegan Sun—which comprises three casinos and a 1,200-room hotel facility and serves about 270,000 covers per week in its roughly 40 foodservice outlets— sent approximately 1,100 tons of food scraps to the piggery. Between 2002 and 2010, Mohegan Sun’s total food waste diverted from landfill has tallied approximately 13,250 tons.

These days, ironically, the cost of the food scrap program is roughly the same as the cost of sending it to trash haulers, says Jean McInnis, who serves as environmental protection administrator for the tribe’s regulation and compliance department. But the benefits of running the program outweigh the alternative.

“Food waste in dumpsters would attract flies, maggots, and vermin,” McInnis says. “And there are no landfill sites left in Connecticut— only waste-to-energy plants that would add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

“WHERE’S OUR PIG BARREL?”
The practice of recycling is so ingrained in Mohegan Sun culture that it’s become second nature for the resort’s nearly 1,500 foodservice employees to look for the recycling bins first.

“If a food scrap barrel is missing from its usual spot, the steward’s office will get a call asking, ‘Where’s our pig barrel?,’” says F&B Executive Steward Tom Champagne. “We’ll also get calls requesting extra barrels before big banquets.”

Mohegan Sun’s back-of-house foodservice staff fills barrels with food scraps, plate scrapings, leftovers, and vegetable and fruit trimmings. What does not go into the barrels are large bones, shells, and non-food items. Liquids and oils, which have their own recycling program, are also verboten.

Collection points throughout the property include kitchens serving employee dining areas, sit-down dining rooms, banquet facilities, room service, and all dish rooms and pot rooms. The blue- or green-painted steel barrels are filled to the three-quarters point to prevent spilling during transport and are stored in walk-in loading dock coolers to keep food from spoiling or attracting vermin.

Food waste processing in pot and warewashing areas involves the use of Somat pulpers. Mohegan Sun’s six Somat machines help extract excess liquid from food waste by pulping it and spinning out excess water before it’s emptied into pig barrels.

Millaras Piggery sends a truck at 3 a.m. seven days a week to pick up an average of 25 barrels of food waste from three locations within the resort. Mohegan Sun pays the farmer $9.25 per barrel for the service. When the food scraps reach the piggery, they’re boiled in the drums using high-pressure steam for 30 minutes until the temperature reaches 220°F. The barrels are washed before being sent back to the resort the next day.

After the pigs have dined, any leftover swill, along with pig manure, goes to the farm’s compost pile. “In a sense, we’re actually recycling the food scraps twice,” says Owner Tom Millaras, who has a federal license to run the food program at his 350-head pig farm. Saving money on grain through the Mohegan Sun partnership has helped keep the Millaras Piggery in business, he adds. “If I had to purchase grain nowadays, I wouldn’t be able to compete.”

GROUP EFFORT
Not surprisingly, a food scrap program the size of Mohegan Sun’s requires the cooperation of many people and departments to make it fly. After back-of-the-house foodservice workers fill the barrels, the stewarding department, led by Champagne, collects the containers, moves them to loading docks, and returns clean barrels back to kitchens.

The engineering department tracks the number of barrels, and the purchasing department negotiates the annual contract with the piggery. The tribe’s regulation and compliance department keeps track of Mohegan Sun’s big-picture recycling efforts. And the final piece of the equation is Millaras Piggery, which relies on the resort to feed its pigs.

“You need proper planning, from space to logistics to sanitation—and proximity to a pig farm,” Champagne says. And you need commitment. “At Mohegan Sun, recycling is part of our culture.”



Janice Cha has covered the foodservice industry for more than a decade, focusing on kitchen equipment for the past seven years.

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