Identifying the Industry’s Research Needs

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

It is time to identify the rendering industry’s research needs for next year. A list of potential research topics will be included in the request for proposals (RFP) sent by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) to the Clemson University Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) researchers. Experience has proven that the rendering industry’s suggestions and lists of needs results in better focused, pertinent ACREC research projects that yield greatest value to the rendering industry.

The RFP will be sent to hundreds of Clemson University researchers across several colleges and dozens of different disciplines. Detailed lists of needs allow researchers to understand how they can apply their expertise in research assisting the rendering industry – an industry that many researchers may not be aware exists! After the RFP is issued, research proposals will be gathered and submitted to the renderer members of the ACREC Research Committee, which is comprised of the sustaining members of FPRF. The committee will then meet and each researcher will present his/her proposal. After discussion and review, the ACREC Research Committee will prioritize research proposals based on their assessment of the greatest need for the industry. The top proposals will be selected for funding and research projects will be initiated July 1, 2014.

Current research projects at ACREC began this past summer and include studies to improve processes, develop new associated products, and ensure safety of rendered animal products.

Wastewater treatment typically used by processing and rendering plants involves use of chemicals in a dissolved air flotation system to remove solids. Dr. Scott Husson, professor of chemical engineering, is studying membrane purification of rendering facility wastewater. Husson’s work has demonstrated that wastewater can be processed effectively and economically without the need for chemical treatments. The membranes can clean even variable concentration wastewaters with no need for modifications. His laboratory is working to understand the interactions between wastewater components and filter matrices. Eventually, the goal is to be able to predict how operating conditions affect wastewater permeate flux through the membrane. This is important not only for improving the process but also for determining membrane operating costs.

Improving ability to separate fat components from rendered materials could open new possibilities for renderers. Since fat has greater economic value, the ability to extract more fat from rendered protein meals would mean more valuable product for sale. The reduction in fat from the meals also could have enhanced value as pet food manufacturers seek to produce lower fat animal diets. Dr. Christopher Kitchens, associate professor of chemical engineering, is completing a study on improving separation of fat from animal protein meals. Using a carbon dioxide assisted mechanical removal, Kitchens was able to reduce remaining fat content in protein meals from 12.1 percent to 2.3 percent.

Odor emissions pose a dilemma to the rendering industry. Drs. Daniel Whitehead and Frank Alexis are developing cutting edge chemistry to grab and destroy malodorous compounds. Their technology has potential for a variety of applications within the rendering industry. Whitehead and Alexis are conducting the proof of concept experiments now on the basic scientific principles for this technology. It is hoped this project can lead to a wholly new approach for odor remediation in the rendering industry.

As featured in this column in the October 2013 Render, Dr. Andrew Hurley has found a new biodegradable polymer that can replace polyethylene-based liners. He is now working to develop gloves and other products with the polymer to help the rendering industry avoid polyethylene issues.

To prevent oxidation of unsaturated fats in animal feed ingredients and resultant quality losses, antioxidant compounds are added to rendered products. Drs. Alexey Vertegel and Vladimir Reukov have created a new antioxidant product from animal blood. Comparison with other commercially available antioxidants proves their new antioxidant effectively protects rendered products. Estimated production costs are very promising for making an economical and effective new natural antioxidant for the rendering industry.

In a project funded by the Poultry Protein and Fat Council, Dr. Joseph Thrasher is conducting a study to assess whether any trace contaminants are present in feed-grade chicken feather meal. Using cutting edge chemical detection methods that can detect as low as a few parts per billion, Thrasher and his team are validating the quality of feather meal as a feed ingredient.

Salmonella contamination in animal feed ingredients continues to be a concern for the rendering industry. Dr. Xiuping Jiang has studied the use of bacteriophages as a low-cost and effective treatment to control Salmonella in rendering plant environments and finished products. Bacteriophages are tiny viruses that can impact only bacteria. These viruses are capable of destroying specific strains of bacteria and historically were used in medical applications prior to the discovery of antibiotics. Currently, bacteriophage technology is being used as a Food and Drug Administration approved protection method for cold cut meats and other refrigerated products. Jiang has isolated a bacteriophage library that is effective against 31 Salmonella isolates derived from rendering plant raw material transportation, receiving, and other areas. A significant amount of preliminary work is necessary to determine the optimal combinations of bacteriophages to most effectively and economically kill Salmonella of concern to the rendering industry. The overall project goal is to develop a bacteriophage product that can be used to treat rendering plant environments to reduce and/or eliminate Salmonella.

With the implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act and its impacts on the rendering industry, it is imperative for the industry to have thorough validation data on the temperature and time required to kill Salmonella within rendering cookers. Dr. Annel Greene, graduate student M. Melissa Hayes, and Yubo Zhang, along with colleagues Jiang and Dr. William C. Bridges Jr., are working to validate the parameters necessary to ensure thermal destruction of pathogenic strains of Salmonella.

So what are the rendering industry’s research needs for the coming year? FPRF Director of Research Dr. David Meeker is conducting a survey of FPRF members to identify emerging issues that could impact the rendering industry. Members are asked to consider the greatest challenges and relay those needs so they can be included as potential topics in the annual ACREC RFPs. Clemson University has researchers available from a wide variety of fields including all aspects of biological and life sciences, every type of engineering from chemical to mechanical to automotive, and all types of business topics including marketing, accounting, management, human resource development, and public policy. Clemson University has state-of-the art computer science research and development capabilities as well, and its supply chain logistics research team conducts a variety of industrial research projects. Clemson University also has strong undergraduate and graduate student research programs available for creatively investigating topics from small to large.

As you think of researchable topics, please e-mail Meeker or Greene so those ideas can be included as potential areas of research in the upcoming RFP.

December 2013 RENDER | back