The Greenest Industry Meets for NRA's 74th Annual Convention

By Tina Caparella

“The original recyclers.” “The invisible industry.” These are just a few tag lines the rendering industry has used over the years. Now they can add a new one: “The greenest industry.”

In an era of “going green,” renderers were reminded of their environmentally-friendly status at the National Renderers Association’s (NRA’s) 74th Annual Convention in October.

“You are the number one recycler in the world,” remarked Dr. Jay Lehr, the convention’s keynote speaker, who is science director with The Heartland Institute, and senior scientist with Environmental Education Enterprises, Inc., which specializes in training for environmental scientists and engineers. Prior to his presentation at the meeting, Lehr educated himself about the rendering industry and then spent two weeks talking to people on the streets about it.

“You are the greenest, most environmentally-friendly industry and no one knows about you,” Lehr declared. He highlighted the various milestones in the industry, from rendered proteins being introduced as a supplement to swine feed in 1901, to the invention of the German autoclave in 1920 making the process a closed system. Lehr warned attendees not to rely solely on biofuels as a future because “there are no renewable fuels that are the next best thing to sliced bread.” He predicted that biodiesel has a longer future than ethanol because it can be created from a waste product, not just a food product.

Lehr encouraged renderers to talk about the strides in their industry, such as improvements in odor control, and voice their concerns, including encroachment problems.

“Optimism pays!” stated Lehr. “The world is going green because it sells, so join them because you are the greenest industry there is.”

NRA Chairman David Kaluzny II also emphasized the greenness of the industry in his convention opening address, pointing out that for years renderers have taken millions of tons of waste material and turned it into valuable products used every day, and are now providing a key ingredient in the production of alternative fuels (see “From the Association”). Kaluzny highlighted the successes the industry has recently experienced and encouraged renderers to celebrate, but also reminded them that challenges continue to surface.

Continuing on an optimistic note was Kevin Kuhni, chairman, Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), who emphasized the new opportunities brought to the rendering industry by FPRF President Dr. Sergio Nates, specifically in aquaculture. Kuhni challenged everyone to donate monetarily to the foundation’s efforts, which include 11 research projects being conducted at the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center at Clemson University and nine projects being conducted outside of Clemson that are feed related.

“Research steers the ship of our industry,” Kuhni stated. “Remember that sound science is based on sound research.”

But sound science doesn’t always rule, said Max Armstrong, WGN radio, who spoke at the convention’s luncheon.

“Emotions rule,” he stated. “The emotion instead of the sound science makes us stupid sometimes.” As an example, Armstrong explained how there has been a 30 to 40 percent increase of horses being shipped to Mexico for slaughter because of the forced closure of humane slaughter operations in the United States. He pointed out that Mexico is using a slaughter method more cruel than was used in the United States.

On food safety, Armstrong put the issue into perspective by saying the 67 million food illnesses per year in the United States out of the 300-plus billion meals eaten proves the country has a very safe food system. He also highlighted the occupations of the 21 members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which include two farmers, two educators, one businessman, one newspaper man, and four career politicians.

“The remaining 11 are lawyers writing the farm bill,” Armstrong alerted. “The opportunity the [NRA] annual fly-in provides to educate them on your industry and the laws that affect your industry are invaluable. If you’re not there, everybody else is and will dictate how those laws are written that could affect you.” He provided renderers with some words of thought spoken by University of California at Los Angeles basketball coach John Wooden: “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the ways things turn out.”

Other issues on the agenda at the NRA convention included a look at the livestock industry by Dr. John Lawrence, Iowa State University, who presented a mixed bag of news. At the end of September, meat production was up year-to-date despite higher corn prices, with carcass weights also up, but herd inventory was trending down. Lawrence reported that over the last 10 years, cow numbers are down nearly one million head and the outlook for the next two years is a drop in cattle slaughter.

On the pork side, producers have been profitable 43 of the last 44 months, something that hasn’t occurred since the 1970s, and hog inventories are up, which can be attributed to exports.

“We now export 15 percent of pork produced in the United States,” Lawrence commented. He estimated a one to three percent increase in the U.S. hog supply over the next year, despite the breeding herd being down by nearly one million in the last 10 years. On the flip side, market hogs and pigs are up 1.8 million in the same time frame, with just under 200 firms selling two-thirds of the hogs, a big switch from years ago.

Lawrence briefly discussed the affect of the alternative fuels markets on livestock, but with U.S. meat production up across the board from one to three percent, he questioned whether ethanol production is causing an impact on food prices. He did offer this “take home” message for renderers: “The world in which we operate has fundamentally changed. How have you changed your business?”

Dr. Graham Clarke, a consultant for the Canadian Renderers Association, explained how the livestock business has changed in Canada since stricter feed regulations went into effect this year.

“Canada had no real choice than to go the way they did due to trade restrictions,” Clarke stated, which included the country’s prime trading partner, the United States, closing its border to beef and beef products after the discovery of Canada’s first case of BSE in a native animal in May 2003. Canada’s stricter feed rule went into effect July 12, 2007, with no major complications, but some issues still remain, primarily in the infrastructure to handle the prohibited material. Clarke said the volume of specified risk material is higher than expected, possibly due to “over management to avoid liability and meet the zero tolerance,” and costs are higher than anticipated, ranging from $5.12 per head for cattle under 30 months to $12 or more per head for cattle over 30 months. But he emphasized that one thing hasn’t changed: the international trade situation.

As for the lessons learned in Canada, Clarke said that implementing a stricter feed ban was a very complex situation and has had farther reaching consequences than many thought would happen in all segments of the livestock and livestock product’s value chain. In fact, the value chain as a whole, except the renderers, were initially supportive of the rule, but have now shifted and are demanding more government financial help to support the changes. On a positive note, Clarke pointed out that the whole value chain was involved in the implementation process, with good communications and a general goodwill to make it work.

Agroterrorism was spotlighted by David Rosen of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Counterterrorism Center, who warned an attack could take place anywhere along the food chain, with an animal disease being the biggest threat in animal agriculture. Rosen said the FBI assesses agroterrorism as being a low-risk, high-impact threat. There is no known or articulated threat to U.S. agriculture or food, but it could grow, with the impact being high economic costs associated with treatment, lost revenues, wages, etc. The FBI encourages calling in suspicious activity, such as unexpected crop spraying or an unusual purchase or theft of chemicals.

Committees Meet

The NRA convention also tackled business matters, beginning with the Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI) Committee meeting where Dr. David Meeker presented updated numbers on the Code of Practice participation.

“I am so proud of this program and the 63 plants certified [covering about 80 percent of U.S. production],” he commented. “It is serving us very well in some of the current challenges.” Meeker explained that a new APPI education program is being assembled for sometime in May 2008.

The NRA Environmental Committee had numerous issues to discuss, including new odor management regulations for agriculture operations in Pennsylvania, Occupational Health and Safety Administration guidance on avian influenza, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed amendments to its Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure rule, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards.

The NRA Biofuels Committee began with a bit of advice to renderers: treat new biofuels customers as any other customer and get the specifications they require or want. Many biofuels producers are not sure of their specifications and may need some guidance or suggestions.

The biggest discussion of the committee addressed the proposed changes to ASTM D6751 specifications to allow biodiesel to be blended with diesel fuel at a five percent level. According to NRA, a cold soak filtration test was developed by Magellan Midstream Partners to screen biodiesel for a problem that has appeared in cold weather – formation of sterol glucosides.

The problem for animal fats is that they may be problem-free in cold weather and have no sterol glucosides (which is a vegetable oil problem), but they test poorly by this procedure. ASTM International subcommittee members will have the opportunity to vote on whether to accept the cold soak filtration test, with “no” votes needing to be supported with data.

On the legislative front, Steve Kopperud, Policy Directions, discussed House of Representatives Bill 3781, which will create a biodiesel fuel standard to use 450 million gallons of biodiesel in diesel fuel in 2008, increasing each year to 1.25 billion gallons by 2012. The NRA will compose and submit a letter to Congress supporting the legislation’s fuel levels but that it be “technology neutral” in biofuel production.

International Arena

There’s always a myriad of international news at the convention and this year was no exception. Niels Leth Nielson, European Fat Processors and Renderers Association (EFPRA), began by explaining EFPRA has 26 members representing 24 European countries. In the European Union (EU), tallow is recognized as a renewable biomass, carbon-neutral, and “safe,” and is used directly in steam-raising boilers, thermal oxidizers, power stations, and most recently in biodiesel. Out of the 2.6 million metric tons of tallow produced in 2006, 700,000 metric tons were used as a biofuel.

Nielson warned that feed in the EU is still a complicated issue. In order to lift the current feed ban, feed control tools such as traceability, markers for category 1 and 2 material, and species identification for category 3 material will need to be put in place.

Paul Stenzel, Australian Renderers Association (ARA), said product prices were up across the board, with some nearly double from a year ago. However, energy costs are up 10 to 30 percent.

“But all in all it’s a good time,” Stenzel stated. He added that Indonesia and China are good markets for Australian rendered products, but that the biodiesel industry down under is struggling, primarily due to escalating feedstock prices. The ARA has established a biodiesel committee to monitor the industry and provide input.

In the livestock arena, Stenzel said beef forecasts vary from a three to six percent slaughter reduction next year, lamb forecasts indicate an eight to nine percent drop, and pig production is seeing losses of roughly $30 (Australian) per pig, with the country’s terrible drought being the key to the declines.

Kent Swisher, NRA International Programs, highlighted the global feed demand. In 2006, U.S. protein meal production included 53 percent meat and bone meal, 17 percent porcine meal, and 30 percent poultry by-product meal, of which half is used domestically in pet food. With markets still closed to meat and bone meal, not much protein meal is being exported, but exports of yellow grease into Europe will increase because of the demand for its use in biodiesel.

German Davalos, NRA regional director for Latin America, has remained focused on aquaculture because of the continued high price of fish meal, which is currently above $700 a metric ton, down from record highs of over $1,000 a metric ton in 2006. He informed attendees that the American Soybean Association is now promoting the replacement of fish and poultry meal in shrimp feed, but because of lower protein content in soy meal, they are promoting soy protein concentrate, even though the price is sometimes higher than fish meal.

“There are others trying to get us out of the market,” Davalos warned. NRA is providing technical assistance to sheep producers, shrimp farmers, and pet food manufacturers in Mexico on using animal proteins in feed formulations.

Dr. Yu Yu, NRA regional director for Asia, declared that “the world has changed. The center has moved to Asia!” He said the priority is to re-open markets with the strategy being a science-based bio-safety agreement between governments. In Indonesia, the best growth potential is in the poultry and aquaculture industries. Yu highlighted recent research projects that showed (1) faster weight gain when feeding chicks an animal protein-based prestarter; and (2) very good results using 100 percent replacement of fish meal with poultry meal in grouper diets.

The convention wrapped up with the board of directors meeting, where new officers were elected.

December 2007 RENDER | back