• "Donating our peel is just another way we can help them through a different kind of struggle.” (iStockphoto/Getty Images)Source: iStockphoto/Getty Images
Donated orange peel, a waste product from the production of the bottled orange juice you drink, is helping one farmer to feed his sheep and fight mice infestations.
Yasmin Noone

28 Jun 2021 - 12:59 PM  UPDATED 28 Jun 2021 - 12:59 PM

Next time you enjoy the flavours of orange juice, take a moment to think about where the orange peel – a by-product of juice production – has gone.

Research suggests that during orange juice production, half of the fresh orange weight is transformed into juice. This means that half the orange – including the orange peel – can be wasted.

In many cases, the peels go to landfill or the peel waste gets burned, producing carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. But over in Kulnura, a suburb of the Central Coast region of NSW, one orange juice producer is doing things differently, using orange peel waste to help farmers in need.

Eastcoast Foods and Beverages, a third-generation Australian-Italian family business, donates its orange peel to farmers for use as cattle and sheep feed when grain or wheat supplies are low. The farmers pay for transportation of the orange peel only. 

“In general, we produce about 150,000 litres of juice in a week from 200 acres of fruit,” says Samuel Lentini, managing director of Eastcoast Foods and Beverages. “So in one year alone, we are able to donate 200 tonnes of orange peel to farmers.”

"Donating our orange peel is just another way we can help farmers get through a different kind of struggle.”

Orange peel v mice

Never was the orange peel more needed than in recent times of drought. So everyone thought. Then the mice plague hit NSW.

“These days, we have farmers reaching out to us [for orange peel] more than ever because a lot of the grain and hay that they had to feed their livestock has been eaten by mice. The farmers tell us that, for some reason, the mice won’t touch orange peel.”

The mice plague is affecting farms across NSW, southern Queensland, northern Victoria, and South Australia, with vermin attacking different locations to varying degrees. 

“Farmers go through so much. If it’s not drought, it’s flood. If it’s not flood, it’s a mice plague. We are third-generation farmers so we just want to help other fellow farmers doing it tough. Donating our orange peel is just another way we can help farmers get through a different kind of struggle.”

Just grateful for the help

Craig Rayner, a cattle and sheep farmer-based 30 minutes drive from Mudgee, is one of the farmers who received the Lentini family’s donated orange peel during the drought.

“I used the peel mostly for my sheep,” Rayner tells SBS. “It's not a food that sheep can solely eat. They have to have mineral blocks and access to dry food as well as the orange peel. It takes a bit of time for them to get used to it but once they get the taste of it, they always go back for more.”

These days, Rayner explains, the orange peel is helping him to battle against a mice infestation on his property.

“I’ve had up to 150 mice here in one night,” Rayner tells SBS. “I had grain stored in the shed in bags. The mice demolished three-quarters of a tonne of grain in each bag. Prior to the plague, it was ‘normal’ for us to see one mouse every two weeks. So that is well and truly more than ‘normal’ for us.

"Luckily, we have not had mice in the same proportions as other places, where there’s a blanket of mice and rats. But I am expecting more mice to come our way.”

Rayner says the orange peel donation provides him with some sense of security – he is confident he’ll be able to feed his animals, even if the situation gets worse.

“The mice don’t seem to care about the orange peel. It’s mind boggling how it works but it does. I am absolutely over the moon, having access to the supply of orange peel that I do.

“It is just heart-warming to know that there's actually a food waste product out there that someone is able to donate to help farmers, rather than just putting it out landfill.”

“It is just heart-warming to know that there's actually a food waste product out there that someone is able to donate to help farmers, rather than just putting it out landfill.”

Grateful for the assistance, Rayner wants orange juice consumers to be aware of just how powerful peel waste can be for food producers battling Mother Nature.

“I don’t think there would be too many shoppers out there who think about the orange peel by-product of orange juice.

“Shoppers need to be more proactive in knowing where their food comes from and understanding what could happen to by-products like orange peel when orange juice is made.”

Eastcoast Foods and Beverages is part of the Your Food Collective: NSW-based organisation connecting online shoppers with fresh, sustainable, and ethically sourced home-delivered produce - most grown within a 250km radius. The aim is to provide home-cooks with quality ingredients, sourced straight from the farm, and give producers the opportunity to get a fair price and broad community access to sell their produce. For more information, visit Your Food Collective online. 

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