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Menicon Helps Starbucks Turn Coffee Grounds into Cattle Feed to Make Milk for the Next Cup

Menicon Co., Ltd., is globally regarded as Japan’s leading contact lens manufacturer. But it’s not often that the world gets a revealing glimpse of the fundamental scientific expertise that gives Menicon its edge. So witness this: Menicon has helped Starbucks Coffee to pioneer fermentation technology that now allows the coffee grounds from Starbucks stores in the Tokyo area to be converted into feed for the dairy cows that produce the milk that goes into your latté.

Starbucks was looking for a better use than plant compost for the hill of beans its stores across Japan produce each day. Although compost is an impeccably green solution that Starbucks has chosen in the Osaka area, composting coffee grounds (known as “bean cake”) leaves significant nutritional value unused. And how much more elegant to turn it into feed for the cows that make the milk that go in Starbucks coffee? The first problem was that there was no technology available to do that.

This is where Menicon stepped in. As an offshoot of materials research toward new contact lenses, since 2011 Menicon researchers had been experimenting with fermentation technologies aimed at finding new uses for rice straw (which Japan has in profusion). One lactic acid fermentation technique they developed turned out to be just the ticket for bean cake. So, in a joint effort with the Veterinary Medicine Department of Azabu University, Menicon developed a cattle feed (suitable for long-term storage) that results in milk with a lower somatic cell count – which is a key quality indicator in dairy products.

The second problem was how to collect bean cake from 1,000 stores nationwide. The logistics needed to be hygienic, regular and economically viable. And viability meant having enough raw material available within a short drive by truck to run a dedicated production line. Obviously, there is no environmental benefit to trucking wet coffee grounds halfway across the country.

That’s why the intense concentration of Starbucks stores in the Tokyo area was critical to the solution. Special storage areas were added to the refrigerated trucks that deliver chilled product to each store. Since the trucks return empty to Starbucks distribution centers anyway, they are able to back-haul bean cake (without adding significant additional carbon footprint) and accumulate it at a few points from where the recycler can economically truck it to a plant in the Tokyo suburbs.

As a result, some of the milk that complements Starbucks beverages in Japan now comes from coffee-fed cows. And in 2013 Menicon and Starbucks, along with Sanyu Plant Service Co., Ltd., jointly applied for a patent on the process used to produce this lactic acid-fermented feed.

For Menicon, this is an important step toward realizing a corporate vision, adopted in 2009, aimed at evolving to become “a world enterprise friendly to people, animals and the environment.”

About Menicon

Headquartered in Nagoya, Japan, and represented in over 80 countries, Menicon Co., Ltd. is the only contact lens company in the world dedicated to every aspect of the field from material development and lens design to manufacturing of lenses and lens care solutions. For more information, visit menicon.com or contact Yoko Kido: [email protected]

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