Food To Farm Mohegan Sun food-waste-to-farm program diverts 1,000 tons of
food scraps annually. By Janice Cha
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.
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.
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
“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
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
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.”
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.”
Advice To Others Whether a food-waste-to-farm program would work for other
foodservice operators depends on many variables. Questions
to ask include:
Is there a pig farm within reasonable distance? And if so,
does your state permit food recycling? “Only 13 states currently
allow this,” Millaras says. Check your state agricultural
department for details.
Does your operation create sufficient daily food waste
volume so it can be picked up before the waste becomes a
Do your kitchens and walk-ins have enough space for collection
Is your staff committed to the program, which means keeping
the food waste free of silverware, glass, and plastics?
Janice Cha has covered the foodservice industry for more than a decade,
focusing on kitchen equipment for the past seven years.