Poultry Renderers Focus on Safety and Energy Savings

he. By Tina Caparella

Twenty-one years ago, a small group of poultry rendering companies met to evaluate the existing production and marketing of poultry by-products and to review results from an eye-opening research study on using feather meal in beef cattle feed, with data showing protein value twice that of soybean meal. The implication was that feather meal would be equally as valuable for dairy cattle. The investment in this research has had a significant impact on the market. Whereas feather meal traded at a discount, on an equal protein basis, to soybean meal, it now trades at a premium.

From this first meeting emerged what is now the Poultry Protein and Fat Council (PPFC) of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. Each year the group gathers to address market potential, research needs, and operational issues, with this year’s seminar focused on rendering’s role in meat production and new technology for energy savings.

Gerald F. (J.J.) Smith Jr., president of Valley Proteins, proclaimed that rendering is an absolute necessity for industrial meat production, providing value to animal agriculture and a proven method to destroying diseases. He explained that non-captive renderers contributed 95 percent of research funding to the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), yet 80 percent of the value went back to by-product suppliers. Renderers have seen the highest fat prices in 2008 and highest protein prices in 2009, although prices are still lower than in the 1970s and early 1980s in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Smith believes the alternative fuel mixture credit of seven-and-a-half cents per pound has added significant value to fat products in recent years, despite the reduction in by-product tonnage due to losses suffered by major meat and poultry processors. He highlighted upcoming challenges for the rendering industry as carbon cap and trade, sustainability of biofuels, flat meat production, increased environmental and food safety regulations, and animal rights activism. And despite new bovine spongiform encephalopathy regulations in the United States that have made some beef by-products nearly worthless, Smith was upbeat about the state of the industry.

“It is an exciting and profitable time to be a renderer!” he declared.

Tommy Bagwell, president of American Proteins, shared his 40-plus years experience as an environmental steward, which includes holding one of the first land application permits in Georgia and installing some of the first covered anaerobic lagoons in the rendering industry. He is a firm believer that anaerobic lagoons are the best wastewater systems for poultry rendering, and that more renderers should be using biofilters, something American Proteins has had much success with despite some drawbacks like constant monitoring.

Bagwell said being proactive and incorporating community relations and outreach has helped his company stay ahead of environmental issues but that challenges still arise. Currently he is working to change a freedom to farm law passed in Georgia that excludes rendering plants as an agricultural support facility.

Industry research was also addressed at the seminar, beginning with Dr. Sergio Nates, president of FPRF, who has set a lofty goal of $1 million in research funding for next fiscal year to support projects focusing on thermal processing, environmental protection, and new product development. Wayne Hudson, chairman of PPFC, reported that the council’s revenue is up but research expenditures are down due to fewer proposals received. However, past PPFC research projects have proven successful as indicated by a steady increase in the value of feather meal.

Switching gears to safety in rendering plants was Paul Schlumper, George Tech Research Institute, who warned attendees there is a shift in Washington, DC, to ramp up enforcement of labor laws. As proof, he highlighted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) new national emphasis program (NEP) on recordkeeping to assess the accuracy of injury and illness data recorded by employers, specifically in the meat and poultry processing industries. While rendering is not listed as a “scope industry,” renderers nonetheless need to be aware of the effort and ensure they are accurately reporting illnesses and injuries (see “Labor and the Law” in this isuse).

Schlumper then focused on com-bustible dust hazards. Renderers should have on hand OSHA’s NEP document on combustible dust and a copy of the National Fire Protection Association’s 654 standard that OSHA often uses for its recommendations. Schlumper emphasized knocking out one or more of five dust explosion requirements – fuel, ignition, confinement, oxygen, and dispersion – to reduce the hazard.

The PPFC seminar featured a two-part session on new technology for energy savings. Steve Heitert, Armstrong International, discussed the use of steam pumps for condensate return, while Aspie Gowadia, Spirax Sarco, described high pressure condensate return systems.

In another session on energy efficiency in rendering plants, Steve Phillips, Haarslev, and David Lilly, The Dupps Company, compared conventional cooking versus waste heat evaporators versus slurry evaporators. Roger Sorel, Electric Energy Conservation Company, and Joe Ribovich and Erin Weeks, Baldor Electric Company, discussed motor efficiency, while Bill Meffert, Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute, described energy efficiency tools available from the U.S. Department of Energy at www1.eere.energy.gov/industry.

Newsline – December 2009 RENDER | back