A Changing World Calls for Altering Research Strategy

By Tina Caparella

For nearly 50 years, the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) has been serving the rendering and associated industries with research opportunities to enhance current usage and seek out new markets for rendered products. During those five decades, the foundation has at times altered its strategy to reflect changing needs.

One such example occurred almost 10 years ago. With the rendering industry uncertain about the future of meat and bone meal due to impending government regulations, FPRF approached Clemson University in Clemson, SC, with the concept of founding a research center dedicated to the study of animal by-products. Clemson administration and faculty recognized that such a unique, collaborative enterprise would complement existing programs. With the addition of an educational component and financial support from FPRF, the Clemson University Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) was established in October 2005. The partnership of researchers, students, and industry has worked well over the years but outside research proposals, still vital to the future of the rendering industry, has been lacking.

This year, at its annual board of directors and membership meetings, it was decided to once again alter the direction and focus of FPRF. While ACREC will remain an integral part of the foundation’s research focus, FPRF will also approach other universities with the goal of obtaining research proposals based on what the rendering industry requires instead of having researchers determine the needs of the industry. On that note, out of seven proposals received, the foundation approved and funded one, pending minor revisions, by Dominique Bureau, University of Guelph, ON, Canada, on the digestibility of amino acids in meat and bone meals and feather meals of different origins that will take two years to complete at a cost of $29,000 per year. Two other proposals that showed promise were not approved as submitted, but the researchers will be encouraged to resubmit with revisions under FPRF’s new focused process being developed and likely to be in place for the next proposal selection at the group’s spring meeting in April 2012.

FPRF also decided to change its leadership structure. After the resignation of President Sergio Nates in September, the foundation voted to enter into a management agreement with the National Renderers Association (NRA) to accomplish the business of FPRF. Thus, Tom Cook, president, NRA, was appointed as the foundation’s president and Dr. David Meeker, vice president of Scientific Services, NRA, was named its director, Technical Services. The NRA Board of Directors approved these recommendations as the two organizations work closely together in the same office in Alexandria, VA.

ACREC Makes its Case
With its second three-year contract up for renewal, the ACREC research team took the opportunity at the meeting to educate members on the successes and goals of the center.

Clemson’s Dr. Thomas Scott provided a brief history of the development of ACREC. After the enhanced feed rule was finalized by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008 and meat and bone meal was not banned from all animal feed, the focus of ACREC switched from finding new uses for meat and bone meal to research in other areas supporting the rendering industry such as biosecurity, operations, environmental, and sustainability issues.

Scott said one benefit of ACREC is educating Clemson students on the rendering industry, something they would not have otherwise been introduced to and who may, at some point in their careers, be contributors either as rendering employees or working in affiliated industries such as animal science or food production. Research projects are conducted primarily by graduate students overseen by Clemson professors. The project must be completed or the student does not graduate and receive a degree. Currently, about 25 students are interested in internships with renderers after learning about the industry by working on research projects. ACREC’s director, Dr. Annel Greene, urges renderers to contact her if interested in using these knowledgeable individuals.

Another benefit Scott highlighted was that Clemson educators and staff have developed experience and knowledge after working with the rendering industry for seven years, and the university has a large multidisciplinary educational program encompassing life sciences as well as engineering. Combined with the students’ exposure to rendering, Scott believes Clemson is prepared and ready to respond quickly in case of a crisis situation the industry might encounter. The FPRF Board of Directors agreed to continue its contract with Clemson on a yearly basis, which is now committed through June 2013.

Emerging Issues
Following the FPRF meeting, three researchers recapped several projects completed or ongoing. Dr. Charles Gooding of Clemson’s ACREC challenged his students to develop new products for fats, oils, and greases. After all papers were submitted and reviewed, he decided the most feasible product was a polyolester biodegradable lubricant. The global lubricant market is a 40 million metric ton per year industry, primarily for the automotive industry, creating a potential new market for rendered fats as biobased lubricants.

Dr. Christopher Kitchens, also an ACREC researcher from Clemson’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department, shared the progress of his project to develop methods to enhance the extraction of fat from crax as well as separate fat from other materials such as dissolved air flotation sludge. His conclusion so far is that the opportunity exists for tunable and selective extraction of fat from rendered materials using liquid carbon dioxide.

The third researcher, Dr. Brian Kerr from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service in Ames, IA, discussed a collaborative project for animal fats and proteins in swine and poultry feeds. With feed costs up, nutritionists are looking for more precision in formulating diets to meet nutrient requirements and in predicting nutrient composition to help minimize costs. Current nutrient equations for swine are older (1998) but new data will be forthcoming soon.

Quality is one of the most significant issues in the pork processing industry because “pigs are what they eat,” Kerr commented, adding that tallow is not effective in making pork fat firmer. He also pointed out that since nutritionists are including distiller’s dried grains with solubles in swine diets, choice white grease characteristics have changed and is becoming more unsaturated.

December 2011 RENDER | back