Poultry Renderers Take Education Seriously

By Tina Caparella

Life is a never-ending learning process, especially in the workplace. A great opportunity to expose rendering industry workers to more information is by attending educational meetings, such as the two-day Poultry Protein and Fat Seminar held in early October in Nashville, TN. Tyson Foods alone sent over 15 plant operators and managers to learn about Salmonella, industry research, pet food requirements, rendering plant best practices, and worker safety.

Leah Wilkinson, American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), got the meeting started by discussing the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed animal feed rules that were due to be released (and were released in late October; see Long-awaited Feed Safety Rules Released in this issue of Render). Signed into law in 2011, FSMA regulations have been slow to emerge due to the potential high costs to industry. Proposed food laws were released earlier this year and are currently being commented on. Wilkinson said the new feed rules will be patterned after hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) programs, establish good manufacturing practices (biggest change for feed manufacturers), and will apply to all feed-related facilities unless designated a farm, which means complete control over all animals. Wilkinson shared that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that 2,000 fewer facilities re-registered under FSMA in 2012 than originally registered in 2003 under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act.

AFIA has five working groups involved in regulations, guidance, and comments and will host a webinar about three weeks after the FSMA proposed feed rules are published. Wilkinson expects final rules, which don’t vary too much from proposed rules, to be released in 2014 with enforcement to begin in 2015. Technically, the FSMA law is in effect, but since no regulations are in place, FDA is delaying enforcement. However, Wilkinson warned that inspectors in some states are trying to enforce the law, so be prepared.

Wilkinson next addressed biotech food labeling activity that often includes feed due to FDA’s definition of food. A new Connecticut biotech law, which won’t go into effect until surrounding states pass similar laws, clearly defines food as “human food,” yet didn’t cover “natural” foods so the law could be applied to pet foods. AFIA has an agreement with the state that the law won’t be enforced for pet food and will work with the legislature to correct the wording once back in session.

Dr. Charles Starkey, American Proteins, Inc. proclaimed that, “We all have a role in food safety, whether you are in quality assurance, accounting, or operations.” He pointed out that one of the biggest issues in rendering is Salmonella. The recently released FDA compliance policy guide for Salmonella in feed removes the premise that all Salmonella are bad and states that animal feed ingredients with any Salmonella are no longer considered adulterated. However, there is zero tolerance for the bacteria in pet food due to the human contact. Starkey pointed out the various Salmonella survival times, which can be as much as 300 days in sweeper dust, so he encouraged attendees to dry clean plants as water accelerates any contamination.

One theory Starkey threw out is that products are not being recontaminated but that injured Salmonella cells are being revived. He questioned whether trucks need to be sanitized instead of just cleaned out and maintained that pests be eliminated from plants using food grade products. Starkey recommended cleaning cracks and crevices, storage bins, under equipment, in equipment, and in hollow places.

“You can’t sanitize what you can’t clean,” he noted, adding that cleaning means removing debris whereas sanitizing is destroying microbes by chemical or physical means. Other areas of concern for possible Salmonella contamination is where condensate builds up such as in crax, dog houses, and transition areas.

“The higher the moisture, the higher the contamination risk,” Starkey stated, reminding attendees that thermal processing kills Salmonella so it is important to establish parameters (time, temperature, moisture level, etc.) for each step in the plant.

Starkey went on to say that testing products is a big deal, especially in an effort to find problem areas within the plant. Renderers should use aseptic sampling of products – wash hands, use gloves, and use wipes to clean equipment and sample containers.

Jessica Meisinger, National Renderers Association (NRA), highlighted various research projects conducted by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation and Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) at Clemson University. Some of the robust research currently underway includes replacing fish oil with tallow, yellow grease as a fat addition to dried distillers grains with solubles (final report just in), phosphorous and amino acid digestibility of meat and bone meal, and adding value to rendered products in relation to aquaculture.

Meisinger noted that Greg Aldrich, Kansas State University, is starting two pet food research projects that renderers are excited about and the Poultry Protein and Fat Council (PPFC) has co-funded. PPFC has also been an important partner in ACREC research that focuses on engineering, plant operations, and innovative technologies, with some moving on to commercialization. She then announced that NRA has a blog at renderingisrecycling.com.

Expectations of pet food manufacturers were discussed by Roger Lund, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition.

“One thing is for sure, we need you and hopefully you need us too,” he proclaimed, then revealed that renderers are audited and approved by Ainsworth before chosen as an ingredient supplier. Requirements include HACCP programs and good manufacturing practices in place, such as no hanging insulation, chemicals, or glass and metal; magnets at load-out; and a track, trace, and recall plan. Ainsworth also requires certification from the Global Food Safety Initiative or Safe Quality Food Institute, which Lund noted some renderers are going through. He highlighted a few of the challenges for producers (renderers) as being multiple pet food customer specifications, continuous material flow due to limited bulk storage of manufacturers, and changing customer delivery requests due to production schedule modifications.

Challenges for pet food manufacturers include inexperienced research and development formulators, multiple suppliers of each ingredient resulting in variance of product, and ways of inspecting (color chart, near infrared, etc.). Pet food companies are also often faced with trying to forecast what their customer needs are so delivery time/days may change due to lack of bulk storage.

Pet food ingredient buyers have expectations in an effort to work together and “quiet the noise,” as Lund put it. He advised renderers to get certified and develop relationships with a pet food company’s quality assurance, research and development, and customer service people. Lund noted that Ainsworth is trying to educate consumers that animal by-products are excellent for pets, yet the term is somehow perceived as negative among consumers.

Ken Futch, Ken Futch and Associates, focused on communicating with the changing workforce by telling the story of how he shot himself in the head.

“Just because you do something stupid doesn’t mean you are stupid,” he explained, then discussed the four generations in the workforce: traditionalists (born 1920s-1940s), Baby Boomers (born 1940s-1960s), Generation X (born 1960s-1980s), and Generation Y or Millennials (born 1980s-2000s). He reported there are 50 million Generation X and 88 million Millennials in the workforce today, with Millennials craving positive feedstock more than any other group. Yet Futch said feedback is often avoided in today’s work environment due to lack of time, being unsure of how to give or the importance of feedback, fear of conflict, unknown details of work performance, and cultural problems with compliments. He encouraged attendees to “make deposits first,” meaning give positive feedback too, not just negative or employees will think you’re after them, and be specific – let them know why it was a good job.

Futch said supervisors need to help others recognize their own strengths and talents and “be real” to workers, admitting their own mistakes and sharing failure stories.

“People identify more with our failures than our successes,” he commented, then urged attendees to anticipate successes, embrace workplace diversity, base attitudes on facts, and appreciate what you have.

Brandon Lairmore, Pilgrim’s, used several math equations to explain product yields and their economic impact in poultry rendering. He highlighted various factors that affect ever-changing yield, such as excess water, over processing, leaking equipment and pipes, inaccurate weights and inventory, and raw material mix, quality, and age. In the end, Lairmore said plant operators can and do affect product yield with their decisions, resulting in millions of dollars in profit or loss to the company’s bottom line.

Dan Henson, Simmons Foods, Inc. addressed rendering plant atmosphere and safety/security, stating that the most affected people in the company are plant workers, followed by customers who visit, shareholders, company owners, and then government. Many renderers are now improving or adding outdoor lighting for safety and security reasons. Henson advised top coating floors and putting nonskid floors on stairs to prevent slips, and suggested moving employee break rooms/lockers away from production, perhaps in the same building as management to allow more worker interaction. He then led a discussion with the audience on the importance of outside plant appearance.

“First impressions are everything,” Hansen announced. “It will tell a visitor what it might be like on the inside.”

Paul Schlumper, Georgia Tech Research Institute, talked about truck safety as it falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He showed the most frequently cited standards under Standard Industrial Class code 753, Automotive Repair Shops, which rendering truck repair shops could fall under, as being: hazard communication, respiratory protection, and wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use. Schlumper noted that fatalities in this area usually occur while employees are working on or under a vehicle or inflating a tire. Bottom line: OSHA expects companies to have procedures for employees working on vehicles and how they are to be protected.

Lockout/tagout for vehicles should cover battery acid, battery shock or burns, air bag explosions, fuel systems, elevated vehicles, and so on. As for servicing tires, Schlumper reported that from 1978 to 1987, there were 694 reported injuries from explosions during tire servicing; 143 were fatal, mainly from truck tires. He recommended restraining devices (cages) for tires and a clip-on chuck for safe distance while inflating tires.

Other potential hazards in truck repair shops are confined spaces, fall protection (e.g., oil change pit), vehicle lifts, compressed gas cylinders used in welding, exit markings and accessibility, and air quality (e.g., carbon monoxide). Schlumper suggested renderers to access the OSHA website for the automotive repair standards.

He next warned that hazard communication changes under OSHA go into effect December 1, 2013. By this date, employers must have trained all employees on the new Globally Harmonized System labels and Safety Data Sheet format (“Material” will no longer be part of the document), although compliance dates for using the new labels and data sheets aren’t until 2015 and 2016. Schlumper again mentioned accessing OSHA’s website as renderers will have to use the new Safety Data Sheets for their customers.

Starkey continued the discussion on safety, noting that there isn’t much difference between food safety and worker safety, with the biggest challenge being changing the attitude and culture of employees caring after safety. He presented some simple housekeeping tasks as keeping work areas clear of tools and cleaning floors for grease buildup to prevent falls. Starkey also advised monthly testing of low-water cutoffs on boilers after four incidences in the past six weeks that fortunately didn’t result in any injuries but did cause millions of dollars in equipment damage. One renderer commented that everything workers deal with in a rendering plant is hot so burns are common. Wearing long sleeves and gloves helps to prevent burns that occur mostly on the hands and arms, and highly visible uniforms that include hard hats and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) monitors also help keep workers safe.

Another renderer said a recent fatality in Europe involved vapor steam from a cooker an employee was working on.

“Don’t forget to treat vapor as an energy source,” Starkey warned. He then urged open communication with workers that encourages reporting any safety issue, and reminded all to include office and lab workers in the safety realm.

Focusing on H2S was Steve Harris, Tyson, who described the colorless, flammable gas as having an offensive odor similar to rotten eggs. H2S is the result of a natural breakdown of organic materials (e.g., feathers, blood, and offal) that can affect one’s ability to smell at higher levels and cause immediate collapse or unconsciousness at very high levels so monitors in the plant and on worker’s uniforms are essential to keep employees safe. OSHA allows a maximum level of 20 parts per million (PPM) during an eight hour shift, but Tyson’s guideline and action limit is 10 ppm.

Worker education and signage on H2S throughout the rendering facility are imperative, as is proper ventilation. Tyson has spent about $25 million over the past 10 years in ventilation equipment in the plant and in tanker trailers.

“You can’t put a price tag on a person’s life or health,” Harris stated. Fans have been a big part of those upgrades. “We have fans in our plant like Bubba Gump has shrimp.” Strategically placed floor fans in Tyson’s plants help disburse any small amounts of H2S, a “Big Ass” fan (huge slow moving blades) in high ceilings keeps air flowing, and an air tunnel pulls fresh air from the outside and disperses it across meat cookers.

“The money you spend on safety is money well spent,” Harris concluded.

Wrapping up the two-day seminar was David Davis, Hydro Solutions, who discussed air scrubbers, commenting that renderers should do as much as they can mechanically to remove odors before using chemicals.

December 2013 RENDER | back