Growth, Innovation, and Teamwork for a Successful Future

By Kevin Golding, Chairman, National Renderers Association

Editor’s Note – The following is a speech given by Kevin Golding, Rothsay, at the National Renderers Association 77th Annual Convention in October.

I have personally been involved in the meat and poultry industry for over 30 years, with the first 20 spent in the packing and processing sector and the last 10-plus years in rendering. I am both honored and humbled to be the chairman of the National Renderers Association (NRA), particularly when I consider the tremendous quality of people who have preceded me in this role.

One of the things that really appeals to me about our industry is the dedication and commitment of so many people, and the teamwork and sense of community that exists when renderers tackle common issues and come together as a group in forums such as the NRA annual convention, its spring meeting, and the Washington fly-in held in June. So many of us compete very hard, head to head, on a daily basis, yet we have a number of common interests and goals that are dealt with as a team through the NRA.

Rendering is a service industry at its core with customers on all sides of its business. Whether it’s providing excellent environmental by-product services to all areas of the North American animal protein chain, or selling top quality finished products to dozens of different outlets from feed to fuel around the world, rendering touches many aspects of the day-to-day production and consumption of food. How many industries have hundreds of thousands of customers and in the many forms that renderers do, and how many provide a service that is known as being “essential”?

Like every other industry, there are always many issues that need to be dealt with, but one of the biggest issues the rendering industry faces today is lack of growth. While renderers have enjoyed reasonable returns over the past several years – partly due to good cost control, investment in plants and other assets, as well as continuing strong commodity prices – many have been dealing with or are faced with flat and/or declining volume for their core service business.

The North American animal protein business is mature and we have all heard the many reasons why the industry is flat or, in some specific areas, declining. Whether it is perceived health and food safety concerns, an aging population unable to consume as much meat, or the rise in vegetarians and vegans in the Generation Y group, the news lately has not been great. This of course is coupled with restrictive import legislation for some countries, along with the competitiveness compared to North America from emerging protein producing countries. For the rendering industry, this issue is critical in nature. Being a service-based business, our volumes are contingent on a healthy animal/protein chain in North America. While high commodity prices are nice, they tend to mask an underlying issue in our industry, which is lack of growth.

This can be looked at as both a threat and an opportunity and while it is certainly not an easy issue to deal with and there are a number of things out of our control, we can begin to make a difference. The industry can continue to drive home its message even harder to North American legislators who for the past 15 years have put in increasingly restrictive regulations that have resulted in less volume and higher costs. This is particularly true in my home country of Canada and equally as true in the United States. This is where a strong industry association and solid teamwork like that which happens at events such as the Washington fly-in come into play. The rendering industry absolutely needs to be a cohesive team in dealing with government on regulatory issues. It is also important that we continue to highlight the safety of rendering processes and products as well as the importance of the service we provide. While the recent egg recall caused grief to one of our renderer members, it once again showed the safety of rendering processes and products and the media attention the industry received was positive.

The other area the rendering industry can focus on is innovation with our core service volumes. Perhaps there are areas where growth is possible. Goodness knows there are many groups currently running around touting new ways to deal with organic materials, some of which we currently process and some of which we do not. These groups, largely unproven, are usually looking for some form of government assistance. I urge the rendering industry to consider innovation in this area as a priority in the coming years. The Fats and Proteins Research Foundation, in the area of finished products, and International Market Development Committee, in market development, have already done some great work – maybe we should be looking at raw material the same way.

I also urge renderers to continue to get involved in the NRA. A strong association can make a difference and we need 100 percent representation. On that note, I would like to both thank and welcome new members JBS and Washington Beef who have joined NRA, and thank all current renderer and associate members for their participation in NRA and their ongoing support.

I would like to recognize the people who serve on the various NRA committees, and in particular, the efforts of the committee chairs. These individuals give a lot of their time to get a lot of work done. My gratitude also goes to Ross Hamilton, NRA second vice chair, and J.J. Smith, first vice chair, as well as Michael Koewler, immediate past chairman, for their guidance and support. These men give countless hours of their time to this industry and NRA and are excellent role models for us all. I have learned a lot from them and many others over the past year.

I also want to acknowledge Tom Cook, NRA president, and his staff for the excellent work they do for the rendering industry. I had the chance to spend a day at the NRA offices recently reviewing current issues, action plans, and the state of the business in general. I came away impressed with the professionalism, dedication, and understanding of the industry that Cook and his staff have. They do a great job representing renderers and if you ever get the opportunity, please visit them at the headquarter offices. You will be glad you did.

Remember, teamwork as an industry, along with innovation and growth, are keys to a successful future for all of us.

From the Association – December 2010 RENDER | back