Preaching to the Choir

By Jean Marie Vogler

Editor’s Note – Render received the following article last November. We always welcome the viewpoints of others, especially from those looking at the rendering industry from the outside in.

A group of attendees at last October’s National Renderers Association (NRA) convention were riding the elevator at the Ritz-Carlton with a few non-renderers also staying at the hotel. Upon leaving the elevator, one man turned to those of us wearing the obligatory name tags and said, “Most people don’t know about your quiet industry, but you are doing good work.” Those of us affiliated with the NRA looked at each other and smiled because we instinctively knew that what he said was true. To be honest, we sincerely appreciated his remarks because they were not the typical remarks made to renderers.

As the evening’s festivities progressed, I couldn’t help but think about the man’s positive statement about the rendering business. Fast forward one day. While attending one of the convention’s spouse programs, the presenter, an artist who paints exotic animals on discarded palm fronds, asked those in attendance, “What exactly is rendering?” The participants mentioned tallow, biofuels, animal feeds, and fertilizers. Her reaction was great: “Oh, so you are recyclers like me!” I suddenly found myself pondering two very interesting reactions to rendering. That night, I couldn’t help but wonder if the industry is too quiet.

Prior to my husband’s employment with a rendering company, I was aware of the industry, but not at all educated about what renderers actually did with the products they collected. As it turns out, when my husband and I moved to our new home, we soon learned that we lived a stone’s throw from a rendering plant. One day, a young man from the plant paid me a visit. Actually, the young man was one of the owners of the rendering plant near my home. At first we talked about horses and our barn under construction. It was a very pleasant conversation.

I soon realized, however, that this pleasant young man needed to determine if I was friend or foe. So we talked more about horses, the area where we lived, and then the ultimate question of whether or not I had any issues with the rendering plant near my home. Truth be told, the rendering plant was never an issue. Perhaps years ago, this discussion might have been very different, but I recall well the education I received about rendering that day. I was mightily impressed to learn about the positive impact rendering has on the environment. A few questions were posed to me that day: “Do you think people understand the value of rendering?” and “What would happen if all that goes into a rendering plant would suddenly be diverted to a local landfill?” Good questions indeed.

Growing up, my father was an excavator. Much of my father’s work was in septic tank repair. Not a very glamorous business unless, of course, it is your septic tank being repaired. My dad always said that people appreciated him when he improved their quality of life. If you’ve ever been around a failing septic tank, you know exactly what he meant. The conversation I had with the rendering company owner closely paralleled what I was taught growing up. What my dad did was valuable. What renderers do is also indeed valuable. It isn’t an overstatement to say that if rendering goes away, there will be serious consequences to our environment.

People simply don’t understand the symbiotic relationship we all have with rendering. Rendering isn’t merely the disposal of ailing or dead livestock from local farms, yet that is what many still believe. Many, except that man in the elevator, seem oblivious to the service rendering provides. What had he learned that made him have such a positive view of the rendering industry? I wish I had asked him that night.

But the story of rendering is still unfolding. As interest in green technologies emerges, science and the general public cannot ignore the positive environmental impact of rendering. Talk about a green industry! As a spouse of someone in the rendering industry, I feel compelled to help the general public understand what it is that makes rendering so important. I feel a strong loyalty to the rendering industry because if they disappeared tomorrow, we would all suffer the repercussions – quality of life repercussions. Like the title of the article says, I realize that I am preaching to the choir. But what if I had a handy bumper sticker phrase or two that would help the populous understand what renderers provide? Some catchy little slogan that would educate without a deep scientific discussion on rendering could prove really helpful.

I tried to come up with a few, but soon realized that what is done at rendering plants isn’t bumper sticker material – Feathers R Us, We Recycle What’s Left, From Leftovers to Fertilizers, Nothing Goes to Waste, What Renderers Take Feed Companies Make, Grease is Good – they just weren’t working for me. Still, I think it would be great if everyone connected to rendering could explain the value of the business in similar terms. I like the term “Biological Recyclers” but it begs the question, what do you recycle? Maybe the answer just isn’t that glamorous, and I have found that a scientific discussion usually causes eyes to glaze over.

Perhaps the real story just might be the one that was explained to me in my driveway that day several years back: What happens if rendering goes away? What is the net result to our landfills, waterways, and to our environment? That is a very glamorous story. Give the public the raw (pun intended) statistics. Once the public is enlightened about the quality of life rendering maintains, then maybe, just maybe, the one slogan we can all agree upon should simply be “Hug a Renderer” because renderers are indeed doing good work.

Jean Marie Vogler is the wife of Robert Vogler, Valley Proteins, Inc. Robert also serves as chairman of the NRA Environmental Committee.

Viewpoint – February 2011 RENDER | back