An Open Invitation to Meet ACREC Researchers

By Annel K. Greene, PhD, Center Director, Clemson University, Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center

The Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) is very pleased to welcome the 2009 National Renderers Association Spring Meeting to Clemson University. The event will be held at the Clemson University Madren Conference Center April 21-24, 2009. Showcased will be ACREC scientists and engineers as they explore innovative methods of controlling microorganisms, develop new applications ranging from biofuels to biodegradable plastics, and address other challenges and opportunities for the rendering industry as identified with input from Fats and Proteins Research Foundation members.

Following are some of the current ACREC faculty and their projects.

Dr. Xiuping Jiang, associate professor of food science, is investigating new methods for controlling Salmonella and other microorganisms in rendered animal by-products. Bacteriophages are unique viruses that can affect only certain species of bacteria. Jiang is seeking bacteriophages that will destroy Salmonella. Bacteriophages could be added to rendered products to protect against Salmonella, to incoming raw product to reduce Salmonella before it arrives at the rendering plant, and as an aerosol within the rendering plant to prevent recontamination of product and for worker safety. Bacteriophages have been used for bacterial control and as a form of therapy since long before the discovery of antibiotics. Bacteriophages are approved for food use and offer an alternative for reducing bacterial populations without the problems associated with antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Charles H. Gooding, professor of chemical engineering, is working to determine the carbon footprint of the rendering industry and its individual processes. Carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during a process or activity. The rendering industry has expressed a desire to have carbon footprint calculations conducted. Gooding is collecting data on rendering operations and will use this information in different approaches to carbon footprint calculation. He is developing a spreadsheet model for industry members to use for calculating the carbon footprint of particular processing units.

Dr. David Bruce, Department of Chemical Engineering, is studying the energy life cycle of biodiesel produced from animal fats. His team is comparing the costs of making biodiesel in terms of energy inputs. With vegetable-based fats, biodiesel production costs must include the energy inputs to grow and harvest the vegetable crops. With animal fats, the primary goal of raising the animal is for meat, milk, or egg production. The project is validating that biodiesel produced from animal fats uses less energy than biodiesel produced from vegetable crops. This project is of benefit to the rendering industry for marketing efforts in “green energy” as well as for government support of biofuels issues.

Dr. Thomas Jenkins, Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, is investigating improvements to tallow for use as a dairy feed ingredient. As milk production increases in the dairy cow, the need for fat in the diet increases. Use of tallow as a fat source in dairy rations is limited because tallow is a rumen-active fat source, which at high levels can interfere with fermentation within the rumen. Jenkins and his team are working to convert tallow into a form that can be protected in the rumen to make it a more valuable fat source for dairy animal feeds. He also is working to improve the fluidity of the material to make it more easily handled. Jenkins’ project could significantly increase the value of tallow as a feed supplement.

Dr. Feng Chen, associate professor of food science, is working to find natural antioxidant materials from rendered animal products. He has discovered that he can create peptides that have a very strong antioxidant capacity. This is of great importance to the rendering industry as a potential protective agent for animal fats in feeds. By utilizing animal protein-derived antioxidants, this project could offer tremendous cost savings to renderers for antioxidant protection of rendered fats as well as a new high-value market product from rendered proteins.

Associate Professor Igor Luzinov, a polymer chemist in Clemson University’s School of Materials Science and Engineering, leads a team that is working to make plastics from animal by-products. The researchers have been successful in creating biodegradable plastics from feathers and blood and have created prototype products such as golf tees. Now they are working to increase the strength and to make the plastics more “mechanically robust.” Luzinov and his team also are investigating the use of other animal by-products, including meat and bone meal, for making biodegradable plastics. They recognize that use of rendered proteins as a new generation of biodegradable plastics could become a large, valuable market for millions of tons of material.

Professor James G. Goodwin Jr., chairman, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and his team are investigating improved procedures for most efficiently and economically generating biodiesel from recycled grease and animal fats using new catalysts and elevated operating temperatures. He has developed a three-phase reaction system in which the solid-phase catalyst, liquid-phase fat, and gaseous-phase alcohols react. Goodwin’s research could yield cost savings of 25 cents per gallon or more on production of biodiesel from animal fats. In addition, with his system, the high free fatty acid content of animal fats would not cause problems with soap formation but, in fact, would be beneficial for use in the system.

Dr. Thomas Scott, professor of animal and veterinary sciences, and his team are studying bioactive supramammary lymph node proteins and growth factor activity. The team discovered that proteins from these rendered products can have unique biological activity and can be used in tissue culture media to grow cells for medical research. Scott and his students have tested the potency of their isolated extract on an array of cells, including human breast cancer and antibody producing cells, and found it works better than the expensive bovine growth serum that is now used ($36-$72 per 100 milliliters). The product could have valuable market application.

Dr. Amod Ogale, professor of chemical engineering, is investigating ways to create new geostructural polymers from animal by-products. His team has been successful in creating a variety of new plastics using melt-processing to extrude and mold feather meal into sheets. The preliminary results of their study indicate that large geostructural sheets of plastics may be made. Potential uses for such materials could include reinforcements for temporary roads or erosion control fencing for construction projects. This project could yield a new market for millions of tons of rendered proteins as high value polymer precursors.

Dr. Paul Dawson, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, is working to isolate antimicrobial compounds from animal by-product extracts. Dawson and his team are testing these extracts on a variety of bacterial strains to determine if any antimicrobial properties exist. As an antimicrobial substance, these materials could be worth thousands of dollars per pound.

ACREC Director Dr. Annel Greene is working with Scott, Dr. William Bridges Jr., Experimental Statistics, and Dr. Adam Leaphart, Clemson University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, to investigate the heat dosage required to destroy the avian influenza (AI) virus in raw materials. This study is aimed at ensuring the health and safety of humans and animals exposed to feeds in case of an outbreak of the deadly virus. This information will be crucial to the rendering industry in the event of an AI outbreak and will be beneficial to regulatory agencies. Publication of the experimental data should help to mitigate rendered product market volatility in an AI crisis.

Clemson, SC, is beautiful in spring, with lush vegetation and blossoms, and great golf and outdoor activities. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the upstate area of South Carolina is home to a wide array of historic locations including antebellum homes and Revolutionary and Civil War sites. The Hanover House, a French Huguenot home built in 1716, stands in the South Carolina Botanical Gardens, located on the Clemson University campus.

Fort Hill, the antebellum plantation home of John C. Calhoun, is located in the center of campus and open daily for tours. The home is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is furnished with important original antiques including an authentic Duncan Phyfe dining table, a mahogany sideboard constructed with wood from the USS Constitution, and a side chair once owned by George Washington. Calhoun served as vice president to Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, secretary of war to President James Monroe, and secretary of state to President John Tyler. Calhoun’s son-in-law, Thomas Green Clemson, bequeathed Fort Hill Plantation to South Carolina for the formation of what is now Clemson University and the home of ACREC.

We invite you to join us in April at Clemson for discussions and interaction to improve the research effectiveness for the rendering industry.

ACREC Solutions – February 2009 RENDER | back