European Renderers Determine World Appears Similar, but Outlooks Differ

By Stephen Woodgate, Technical Director, European Fat Processors and Renderers Association


In early June, over 200 delegates attended the European Fat Processors and Renderers Association (EFPRA) Congress in Aalborg, Denmark. Two main business sessions were held as well as official EFPRA and World Renderers Organization (WRO) meetings. As is tradition, the equipment supplier exhibitions and social events ensured that business was mixed with a little pleasure.

On day one, the EFPRA Technical Symposium brought together technical and business people with the objective of conveying technical messages in an easy to understand manner. Speakers from five countries covered a range of topics relevant to EFPRA members and their customers. Stephen Woodgate of the United Kingdom, technical director of EFPRA, introduced the session with a short review of the activities of the EFPRA standing technical committee during the previous year. He also highlighted the areas of main focus for the next 12 months, one of which is the adoption of a new animal by-products regulation to update, simplify, and provide more certainty in key areas than the existing regulation. Specifically, clarity is expected on the matter of determination that tallow is a fuel and not a waste. Amendments to environmental legislation and a new directive for renewable energy and biofuels will also be tracked and EFPRA will be actively involved in the consultation process. A new regulation requiring that glycerol triheptanoate be added to Category 1 and 2 animal by-products was described and the practical implementation steps necessary were illustrated. Finally, and most relevant in today’s environment of high cost of animal feeds, a proposal to authorize the use of non-ruminant animal proteins from Category 3 material for use in aquaculture feeds will be progressed at both the technical and political levels.

Rob Margry of the Netherlands gave an overview of the species identification methods available to identify species-specific processed animal proteins. The review included an assessment of the pros and cons of various testing methods, such as lateral flow (dipstick) systems, polymerase chain reaction, and microscopy. The relevance of each test system to the current and future legislation on animal feeds was described.

Gerald “J.J.” Smith of the United States, and a member of the National Renderers Association (NRA) board of directors and future chairman of the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), gave an overview of FPRF activities. As a “non-scientist,” Smith was perfectly placed to give his views in his usual straight talking way. He emphasised the financial inputs required to obtain high-quality research and called for funding to be found to unearth the opportunities that may yet to be discovered. The possibility of co-funding specific research projects between FPRF and EFPRA was proposed as a potential way to increase research efficiency between the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Jussi Suomi from the Finnish company Neste Oil made a very clear presentation on the aspects of European renewable energy proposals that impact the rendering industry. The characterization of biomass was described with Suomi concluding that rendered products meet the definition. It seems that if tallow meets the criteria laid down it will probably mean that value as a fuel could exceed its value as a feed ingredient. Of course, the specific EU animal by-products legislation requirements for three categories means that only Category 3 tallow can enter the food chain (via animal feed), leaving Category 1 and 2 tallow to be used as a feedstock for chemical splitting or as a fuel. This, in reality, makes it difficult to suggest that there is a competition for food or fuel but rather that the rendering industry can provide both food and fuel.

Niels Alsted of Denmark comes from the commercial aquaculture world as chief executive officer (CEO) of one of the European “big three,” Biomar. Alsted gave an excellent presentation that was both technical and commercial. It was clearly stated that the EU aquaculture feed industry has a high demand for rendered animal proteins, yet there is resistance from both legislators and retailers. He concluded that the EFPRA technical approach to the regulator was the most appropriate way forward, but he also mentioned several possible approaches regarding retailer acceptance. From this retailer’s viewpoint, EFPRA was urged to engage with the food producer, one step before the retailer. Here, a realistic and non-emotional relationship can be developed, and thereafter the food producer may also assist with educating the retailer to take animal by-products seriously as a feed ingredient.

On the EFPRA business front, the annual general assembly endorsed the re-election of Niels Leth Nielsen as president for an additional two-year term, along with two vice presidents for the same period: Sjors Beerendonk and Alberto Grosso.

On day two, the congress was split into two sessions. First, a general overview session featuring Patrick Coelenbier updated the European statistics in terms of animal numbers, meat production, and animal by-products. In regard to the latter, Coelenbier showed that rendered products were utilized, as before, by six main sectors. These outlet opportunities include energy, animal feed, pet food, oleochemicals and soap, fertilizers, and foods. Overall, Coelenbier showed that there is an evolution towards segregation of processing lines by animal by-product categories, particularly when higher value products may be produced for specific markets.

Hikka Summa from DG-Agri presented the views of the Directorate-General of Agriculture and Rural Development on renewable biomass. Here it was seen that the views of DG-Agri appeared to be in tune with those of EFPRA. It is hoped that the main directive on renewable energy is not sidetracked by other aspects being considered in tandem, such as fuel quality and sustainability. In principle, EPRA members consider that they should be able to meet all the criteria laid down, but in amongst the technical discussions is mixed a considerable amount of political rhetoric…sometimes not very helpful.

Tim Gumbel from DG-Sanco gave some indications of what to expect from the new animal by-products regulation, although he was not able to go into detail as the proposal was not formally adopted until a week later. He also outlined the European Commission’s desire to reduce the burden on business and minimize trivial issues of red tape whilst at the same time ensuring high standards of animal and public health.

Kjeld Johannsen, CEO of Danish Crown, illustrated the scope of the company’s commercial activities. He urged the audience to “think global” and showed by way of example some of the challenges faced over the last few years and ahead into the future. Certainly, changes in the European Union showing reduced numbers of animals slaughtered for food production was a cause for some concern. However, Johannsen proposed that in his opinion, application of sound business principles could still deliver growth in this vitally important food sector.

The second session, a round table discussion based on the theme “food versus fuel,” featured speakers from four different countries and was chaired by the president of EFPRA and WRO, Niels Leth Nielsen. Kent Swisher from the NRA gave an overview of activities in the United States during 2007 and updated the audience on a recent U.S. regulation regarding some aspects of feed controls relating to transmissible spongiform encephalopathy risk materials. Overall though, 2007 was considered to be a good year for U.S. rendered products, mainly driven by high prices of all food, feed, and fuel commodities.

Andre Couture, from Montreal, Canada, described the evolution of Sanimax from a small French Canadian company owned by his grandfather. The range of products produced by Sanimax in both the United States and Canada illustrated that all of the animal by-products are being valorized in one way or another. Even the introduction of a ban on specified risk materials in feed introduced in Canada in July 2007 has not caused major problems, even though some reorganization of processing lines has been necessary.

Alan von Tunzelman, president of the New Zealand Renderers Association, made a presentation that could have been produced by the New Zealand tourist board. However, woven into his presentation was a serious message about the importance of livestock agriculture to the New Zealand economy and, as importantly, the relationship between the meat and animal by-products sectors.

Last, but certainly not least, was Andrew Bennett from Perth in Western Australia who gave a down to earth appraisal of the state of the livestock and animal by-products industries in Australia. Notably, drought has or is causing major problems with livestock productivity and while product prices are high, there are lower numbers of animals and therefore less raw material. Bennett also gave his views on the development of the biofuels market in Australia, in particular, biodiesel using tallow as a feedstock. This industry appears to be a victim of hype such that now some planned plants have been suspended “on the drawing board” and some commissioned plants have stopped operating because of severe financial losses.

The overall message at the congress seemed to be one of “the world appears to be similar…but in reality there are major differences in outlook.” However, just to show that the WRO can achieve a degree of consensus, it was agreed at the informal meeting in Aalborg that some actions would be taken. These include a proposal to contact the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, regarding the interpretation problems seen with the OIE declaration on “protein free tallow,” and an agreement to propose a revision to the international tariff codes for trade in rendered products in order to achieve some discrimination between ruminant and non-ruminant products. It was also agreed to make a silver level contribution towards the Global Aquaculture Alliance conference in China at the end of October 2008. Finally, the activities of the upcoming Codex meeting will be monitored to determine if a new ad-hoc animal feed committee is formed, and if one is established, then WRO will ensure that it has a voice.

Next year the EFPRA meeting will be in Cannes, France, June 10-13, 2009. Meeting details are available at www.efpra.eu.


International Report – August 2008 RENDER | back