Top 10 Trends to Watch in 2013

By David Meeker, PhD, MBA
Senior Vice President of Scientific Services, National Renderers Association
Director of Research, Fats and Proteins Research Foundation

By agreement with the esteemed editor of Render magazine, I’m now writing a regular bi-annual article on top trends to watch in the rendering industry. Last year we thought we might do it annually, but one look at the February 2011 article indicated that a 2012 list would be so much the same – regulation, food safety, sustainability, redefining “natural,” economic recovery, and so on – that waiting a year was in order. Alas, the 2013 deadline loomed and after reviewing again the 2011 article, the rendering industry is still facing the same macro trends today. What then to write about?

Here’s what I won’t write about – a list of things we are all sick of hearing updates on: the election, the fiscal cliff, the European Union monetary crisis, fracking, Congress, the Royals (not the baseball team), and Honey Boo Boo or anything in the “reality” genre. I could go on, but won’t. A good place to start is usually to review other lists to see if there’s anything relevant for the rendering industry that can be adapted.

Getting started is always the hardest part. In that struggle, I came upon an intriguing list on how to overcome creative block: get enough sleep; read as much as you can; surf the web; watch “Law and Order” marathons; remember how lucky you are and quit bellyaching; keep a sense of humor; and a few others not fit for a serious industry journal (from a review of Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination on a very interesting website called Brain Pickings). In addition to references on where good ideas come from and how creativity works, other lists on this site include New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking and Why Does the World Exist?

Enough describing the thought process of my procrastination. Here’s my list of things to watch in 2013 as they relate to the rendering industry:

1. Regulation: Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA), food safety, environmental, worker health and safety, and Obamacare.
2. Research: Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC), Kansas State University, Agriculture Research Service, and nutritionists at large.
3. Hot topics: Salmonella, oxidation, World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) status, and code of practice.
4. Partners, allies, and coalitions: Poultry Protein and Fat Council (PPFC), Pet Food Institute (PFI), American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), and livestock and veterinary groups.

The National Renderers Association (NRA) typically spends a majority of time and efforts dealing with regulation. A big one on the horizon is the Food and Drug Administration’s FSMA. There was considerable procrastination (or was it pre-election apprehension) on the part of the Obama administration in pushing ahead expected regulation in 2012. The dam is expected to break during 2013 leading to a plethora of new regulations on all fronts. NRA will be watching closely to respond and inform as needed. Much more will be written on this in the future.

Reorganization has led to research for the rendering industry being managed closer to policy needs and regulatory challenges. After some renegotiating and focusing efforts on behalf of both Clemson University and the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF), ACREC is coming into its own. Early foundation efforts to create a critical mass of research knowledge available to address emerging and long-standing industry problems are starting to pay off. There are excellent projects underway to watch: critical kill temperatures in rendering cookers, more efficient fat extraction and wastewater cleanup, better raw material collection liners, Salmonella control, antioxidants, and non-feed uses for proteins and fats. Conversations on the next round of important research projects occur continually and at odd hours. ACREC leaders Annel Greene and Charlie Gooding are very responsive and tuned-in to the rendering industry’s research needs, and eight to 10 very accomplished researchers are working on FPRF projects continually.

Kansas State University announced in 2012 that a new pet food production program has been added to its excellent feed science program, so this is something to watch. Since the pet food industry is a very important set of customers for renderers with increasing mutual challenges (i.e., regulations), this program may offer a great chance to improve communications with the pet food sector, work on challenges together, and increase appreciation for and understanding of the rendering industry. FPRF has already funded the first project in this program on product shelf life and we expect a long and productive relationship. Greg Aldrich, a longtime friend to the rendering industry, is leading this effort. We will be developing research ideas with this program and hoping to attract funding from many sources.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has chosen to terminate a small but important research project supporting the rendering industry. The $743,000 per year “Biobased Industrial Products from Food Animal Processing By-Products” research project led by Rafael Garcia at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA, is targeted for elimination as ARS tries to address the federal budget crunch. NRA has written to USDA and Congress to try to get this decision reversed. The industry doesn’t make many requests for government assistance in research, but we believe eliminating this research program is a mistake and will ultimately harm the sustainability of animal agriculture. We should learn in 2013 what happens here.

In addition to the programs described above, the rendering industry has had a very long association with animal nutritionists at universities and research institutions across the continent and elsewhere. They continue to reevaluate products as rendering processes improve and change, and to refine and define the nutritional needs of many species of “customers.” Dominique Bureau, Brian Kerr, Gerald Shurson, Jesse Trushenski, and Jeff Firman are among the current crop of nutritionists on the cutting edge in 2013. Results from nutrition research often find their way into updated dietary guidelines from the National Research Council and others. We expect continued good developments on this front.

Hot Topics
Salmonella has been a nemesis for the rendering and other industries for a long time. Much progress has been made to bring down the incidence in rendered products. Renderers know cooking works, and there will soon be detailed verification data to prove it, but we continue to be challenged by recontamination from many possible sources. The industry has been helping design new work in an attempt to nail down exactly where the Salmonella reentry points are and what to do about it. In the last couple of years, some clarity has been gained on the livestock side with FDA specifying a handful of serotypes as pathogens of concern rather than the entire class of Salmonellae. However, the added FDA clarity on the pet food side brings a new wave of concern and need for further attention because in pet food, all Salmonella species are considered a hazard in finished product. It may be too much to expect solutions in 2013, but hopefully some efforts will be set in motion to solve additional Salmonella challenges in the near future.

Oxidation is another longtime nemesis that has received increased attention recently. The industry is unsure how to measure it, how to prevent it, how to mitigate it after it occurs, or what the consequences are in many cases. Recent FDA actions on ethoxyquin have brought into question prevention methods that have been used for 30 years. Here’s hoping that 2013 brings some short-term solutions so renderers can continue to use methods they do know, and start hearing research reports on developments of longer term, better solutions for the future.

BSE, thankfully, is not something talked about every day like the industry was forced to eight years ago, but it still impacts trade and operations. A couple of “atypical” cases, which are apparently not connected to feed and may be simply a function of old age in very old cows, have hindered the United States as it seeks to be designated as “negligible risk” by OIE. A similar case in the heretofore BSE-free (more technically, negligible risk) Brazil may help the case for the United States. Look for OIE to finally, and belatedly, grant this country negligible risk status in 2013. This will not be a tectonic plate-shifting event for trade like the discovery of the first US case was, but it should help.

The North American Rendering Industry Code of Practice, a hazard analysis and critical control point-based program to address food safety, has long been described as a preemptive strategy in the face of increasing regulation and customer expectations. This will be pivotal year as the long-awaited regulations to implement FSMA will finally come forth. We’ll likely have to adjust the program, prepare for increased scrutiny, and pay even more attention to detail in hazard analysis and process control. The recent merger of the industry’s long-time auditing firm, the Facilities Certification Institute and Validus, a major agricultural International Organization for Standardization-certified auditing firm, is one step of many that will raise the bar again for participating plants. The rendering industry has much to be proud of in this program and the high level of participation, but we cannot rest on these laurels.

Partners, Allies, and Coalitions
PPFC is a consortium of poultry companies that produce poultry meal, feather meal, and poultry fat. In recent years, PPFC has become a very important partner with FPRF in funding research. Their participation has not only helped elevate the scientific expertise as the foundation selects projects, but has also allowed FPRF to fund additional important work. Recent talks with PFI structured around mutual food safety challenges give rise to hope that a similar strong relationship with these companies could advance future research. AFIA maintains a strong policy footprint in Washington, DC, and NRA stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them on many issues. Similarly, the rendering industry maintains strong ties with pork producers, beef producers, the poultry industry, veterinary suppliers and regulators, the meat packing industry, and so on. Look for strengthening and expanding these relationships in a challenging 2013 and beyond. As former USDA leader Bill Hawks always said, “Working together works.”

There, you have it. Ten paragraphs explaining a list of things to watch in four categories.

In anticipation of some readers’ reactions to this, I recall an interview with pop singer Bruno Mars I recently heard. He acknowledged to critics that his original works may sound shallow, but suggested to them, “You try writing a song, then!” I’m not suggesting Render readers do my job, but any ideas are welcome for next time!

February 2013 RENDER | back