Poultry Renderer Seminar Hits the Mark

By Tina Caparella

Nearly 80 poultry renderers and others who work with this niche group gathered in early October in Nashville, TN, to learn about what the pet food industry expects from its suppliers, how to determine the carbon footprint of a rendering plant, the emerging export markets for rendered products, and other issues affecting how they do business.

Wayne Hudson, Perdue Farms, Inc., began by recapping the activities of the Poultry Protein and Fat Council (PPFC), who hosted the seminar and whose members process about 220,000 tons of material annually. The council announced new officers as Dan Henson, Simmons Foods, president; Chuck Malone, Tyson Foods, chairman, Advertising Subcommittee; and Ken Smith, American Proteins, chairman, Subcommittee on Technology.

Renderers then got some insight into the expectations of the pet food industry from Jim Eastin, The Nutro Company.

“Rendered material is a critical ingredient for pet food,” Eastin declared. “Because pets are part of our families, the ingredients you supply are not feed, they are food.” He informed renderers that pet food is highly regulated at the federal level, that 71.4 million U.S. households (62 percent) own a pet with that figure continuing to grow despite the recession, and that an estimated $47.7 billion will be spent this year by U.S. consumers on pet food.

In the 1970s, consumer perception of pet food ranked low on the priority list; today, consumers put pet food as or more important than human food. Because of this, the challenge for pet food manufacturers is the freshness and shelf life of dry pet food with rendered ingredients having a high risk of contributing to rancidity issues. Eastin presented a “wish list” of expectations from renderers that include:

• no foreign material or contamination in ingredients;
• pest-free, fresh ingredients that consistently meet specifications;
• proper documentation;
• a load that is safe and secure from potential tampering;
• on-time and complete delivery using reliable carriers; and
• ingredients sourced from sustainable raw materials.

The key to meeting the pet food industry’s expectations is plant quality programs. Eastin said manufacturers sometimes see a disconnect from food safety program documentation and what is actually happening on the rendering plant floor. He told renderers that process control is essential and antioxidant application, especially in fat, is critical, providing pet food kibble with a barrier containing antioxidants. Eastin also encouraged renderers to ensure biosecurity measures are in place and that containers/trailers/rail cars are inspected and previously-hauled loads are verified to prevent cross-contamination. Renderers should also encourage an open, two-way communication with their customers and make rendering sites available for on-site visits.

Dr. Charles Gooding, Clemson University, presented the results of an Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) project on determining the carbon footprint of the rendering industry. He said, generally, a carbon footprint is a measure of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from an activity, but since there is no official definition creating many “ifs, ands, and buts,” for industry, the answer is not so simple and many questions can go unanswered.

Gooding highlighted the various activities that should be reported. The first scope of activities are mandatory and include all direct emissions from company-controlled sources, such as combustion and process vents, wastewater treatment, and company vehicles. The second is recommended and encompasses emissions attributable to purchased energy using data on local utility methods of generation and emission factors.

“But this can get a little murky,” Gooding commented. The third scope of activities are voluntary and include indirect emissions related to company activities but from sources not controlled by the company, such as transportation of raw materials and products by contractors, employee commuting, and business travel. He recommended two Web sites to learn more: www.ghgprotocol.org and www.theclimateregistry.org.

The ACREC research project resulted in various calculators for the rendering industry, which Gooding demonstrated. While determining GHGs is a “dynamic system,” by Gooding’s calculations, the rendering industry actually prevents more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from being released than rendering plants emit, resulting in a CO2 “avoidance.” He has submitted his research for peer review and is currently evaluating the feedback.

Isaac Botbol, IB Communications, discussed developing effective communication and cross-culture skills when dealing with Hispanic workers. He said Hispanic workers, of which there are 18 million in the U.S. workplace, have one of the strongest work ethics, with over 50 percent of them dominantly Spanish-speaking. One way to bridge the Hispanic language barrier is showing the worker by example, especially since those workers who do speak English may lose some of the communication because of translation or their understanding of the language. An important note Botbol made is that first generation Hispanic supervisors are often divided between their hard-working, family-oriented culture and the company’s business-oriented, competitive American-style management. This is primarily due to these supervisors having had very little, if any, leadership and interpersonal communication training.

Botbol reminded renderers that first generation Hispanics primarily come to the United States to earn money, not to learn English, so providing “workplace English” classes can be beneficial provided that are offered in a location that is comfortable to the workers, such as in an area of the production floor. He also said Hispanic workers rarely complain about work conditions because complaining is a sign of weakness and they fear their job may be in jeopardy. To help them overcome this fear, American managers need to walk the plant floor periodically and use basic Spanish language to show employees they are important to the company. Botbol believes this “emotional” connection is easier to do with Hispanic workers than American workers because of the family/community culture they were raised in.

“Under ideal situations, language in the United States should not be an issue because we are an English-speaking country,” stated Botbol. “But reality is, this is a problem.”

Kent Swisher, National Renderers Association, covered export markets, explaining that in 2009, nine percent of animal proteins (325,000 metric tons) and 30 percent of animal fats and greases (1.3 million metric tons) produced in the United States were exported, reaching a value of one billion dollars in recent years. Attendees learned that import requirements and regulations will differ between countries and customers, and that on occasion an import certification must be obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Exporters can work with an area APHIS office in the state where the product is produced, shipped, processed, or the broker or shipper is located. If the area office veterinarian isn’t helpful, exporters can then go to one of two regional offices – one for states west of the Mississippi, one for states to the east.

Swisher returned the following day providing information on specific export markets, such as emerging markets like Indonesia, Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. He also discussed the new European Union animal by-products regulation, 7066-2009, due to go into effect March 2011, and highlighted that global biodiesel production increased about eight percent from 2008 to 2009, with 79,000 metric tons of poultry fat being used by U.S. biodiesel producers. Swisher concluded by explaining how rendered animal proteins, including poultry products, make a good partial alternative to fish meal in global aquatic and terrestrial rations.

A rendering operations open forum moderated by Dan Craig, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, got a lukewarm response from the audience, but a few renderers provided their experience, including one from Tyson Foods who said it’s important to get involved with the community to make residents aware that rendering is not a “menace” to society. Another attendee pointed out the efforts of Waste Management in their attempt to change the perception of trash, including changing the negative term “dump” to the more widely received “landfill.”

Many agreed that renderers need to develop better relationships with the raw material customers they service, explaining which raw materials are not acceptable and can cost the customer money if not separated. It was suggested to inspect a processing plant’s procedures to help solve problems such as material containing contaminates like metals and plastics.

“We are the number one customer for (meat) processors,” said Craig. “We buy their product and we need to tell them what we expect.” Another recommendation was to communicate, in simple terms, to plant workers that research being performed is important to the industry.

Plant safety and educating plant managers on export requirements was also addressed. One renderer has three human resources/safety management employees go into its plants and do a mock Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection to determine the safety of the plant. Plant managers can ensure rendered products are processed properly to meet export requirements if they are trained on what is included in the pre-inspection checklists.

The first day of the meeting rounded out with presentations on air scrubbers by Trip Walker, AC Corporation, wastewater by Andy Brashear, Simmons Foods, and natural stabilization of pet food ingredients by John Johnston, Geo. Pfau’s Sons Company, Inc.

The second day began with a look at physical security in rendering plants by Kort Dickson, Perdue Farms, Inc. Lack of planning is the biggest problem in security and renderers were told they should examine the Department of Homeland Security’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. Dickson highlighted the various security zones around a plant and explained how personnel need to approach the flow of security from outside the plant inward, and from inside the plant outward. Items such as landscaping, fencing, lighting, and non-pedestrian entrances can all provide unauthorized access to rendering facilities.

“Thieves take because they can,” Dickson commented. “The benefits of security far outweigh the hassle of possible liabilities.” Employees should challenge individuals who come onto company grounds, and keeping a facility’s perimeter clear of trash and debris shows others a company cares about its property.

Bo Watson, Tyson Foods, Inc., shared his company’s experience with an accidental spill of dissolved air flotation sludge that occurred earlier this year due to a combination of equipment failure and extremely cold weather.

“There were a lot of holes in what we thought was a solid spill prevention, control, and countermeasure program,” Watson commented. He warned renderers to pay particular attention to containment valves, which should be locked, because they are the first line of defense against any spill. Tyson took the spill event very seriously, spending two days evaluating exactly what happened, taking corrective and prevention actions, including retraining employees, and reporting exact contents of the spill in gallons, further defining the amounts into oil and grease, solids, and water. Watson urged renderers to make sure policies and procedures are in place and being followed “because this isn’t something you want to go through.”

David Fairchild, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), provided guidelines to safe transportation of feed and ingredients, which is covered under the Sanitary Food Transportation Acts of 1992 and 2005. In April 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the acts and include inspection procedures, but Fairchild thinks it will be several years before any rule is published. He said transporters must now follow requirements under FDA’s Bioterrorism Act and new bovine spongiform encephalopathy regulations to ensure safeguards are in place to prevent cross-contamination of prohibited material. FDA has performed 568 transporter inspections since 2008, with nearly half of those inspections being done in Texas.

Fairchild anticipates animal feed safety system regulations, first brought up by FDA in 2003, to finally emerge next year that will identify gaps and address the current feed regulatory framework; transportation is viewed as part of the food/feed continuum. He explained the various NGFA trade rules and practices that cover all feed ingredients defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, and the feed association’s model feed quality assurance program designed for compound feed manufacturers.

Wrapping up the seminar was Paul Schlumper, Georgia Tech Research Institute, who reported on dust control. He said first and foremost “test your dust” to see if it is combustible and become familiar with OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Combustible Dust. Although there is currently no federal standard on combustible dust, while OSHA works on developing one, they are following the National Fire Protection Association’s 654 standard. Schlumper emphasized there are five elements that need to be present for dust to combust: fuel (dust), source of ignition (i.e., electrical sparks, friction, static), confinement, oxygen, and dispersion (i.e., compressed air). Particle size of the dust is critical for combustion, with the hazard increasing as the particle size decreases.

Newsline – December 2010 RENDER | back