A Strong Organization Working Hard for Renderers

By Tim Guzek, Chairman, National Renderers Association

Editor’s note – The following is a speech, in part, given by Tim Guzek, Sanimax, at the National Renderers Association 83rd Annual Convention in October on Amelia Island, Florida.

It has been one year already since the last National Renderers Association (NRA) convention. With so much happening, the months seem to fly by but here we are again examining the past year and looking at some upcoming areas of concern for the rendering industry.

The last year saw another good corn and soybean crop production that is keeping grain prices low as well as influencing rendered product prices. Tallow and yellow grease prices are up from this time last year and near levels they were at two years ago while protein prices are about the same as in October 2015 but down from two years ago. Animal protein, and to some extent fat, prices will most likely remain low due to higher slaughter, limited export markets, the high-valued dollar, and low grain and crude oil prices. Energy prices continue to slump, which is not good for biodiesel or animal fat prices but does keep operating costs down in rendering plants and fleets.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is finally here with the first phase of compliance beginning in September. NRA members thank Dr. David Meeker, senior vice president of NRA scientific services, for his active involvement during the entire rulemaking process over the past two years. He also spearheaded FSMA training with the updated and extensive North American Rendering Industry Code of Practice to educate and prepare NRA members. A lot of work has already been done but there is still much more ahead.

Sustainability is increasingly important to the marketplace and although rendering is sustainable, that fact needs to be further promoted. Food waste and landfill diversion is growing in popularity, presenting some risks to renderers. NRA is focusing on these and other regulatory issues, legislation, and community activities.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Food Recovery Hierarchy lists composting as the fifth tier for dealing with food waste – just above landfill. Industrial uses/biodigestion is listed as the fourth best option while feeding animals is EPA’s third preferred method in handling food waste. With rendering falling in the third and fourth tiers, EPA believes that rendering food waste is a better option than either landfill or biodigestion. Landfill diversion is gaining a lot of traction with reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a goal and in some cases passed into regulation.

Forty percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted. In federal, state, and local governments’ zeal to promote landfill diversion with better options of disposal, financial assistance programs are being used to help build these processes. However, often these programs take into consideration some of the raw materials that rendering is already recycling. These alternative disposal methods – composting and anaerobic digestion – are not as beneficial to the environment as rendering is as confirmed by EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy.

A food waste recovery bill, HR 4184, has been introduced in the United States (US) House of Representatives (HR) with the goal of reducing the amount of food ending up in landfills. It would provide new federal loans/grants for composting and anaerobic digestion projects, which could divert animal by-products and used cooking oil to less sustainable uses thus reducing raw material renderers currently collect. NRA supports EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy and will be working to educate lawmakers on the rendering industry’s current role in reducing food waste.

The marketplace shows that sustainability is gaining traction, from large corporations developing dedicated departments and programs to mid- and small-sized companies becoming more aware, which is ultimately influencing decisions on how businesses buy and operate. Sustainability is also being driven by consumers as research shows two-thirds want to learn more about corporate sustainability initiatives and would be more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making an effort to be sustainable. Meanwhile, 8 in 10 consumers are more likely to purchase a product that represents corporate social responsibility than one that does not, while 93 percent have done something to conserve energy in the last two years.

NRA Strategic Plan
Along with these challenges, NRA is focusing on its 2020 Strategic Plan, which has resulted in many new initiatives involving sustainability as a key component. NRA is enhancing and developing its communications tools for members’ use while the international team is working diligently to expand and maintain the US rendering industry’s export markets. In addition, NRA’s ever-important work in Washington, DC, with legislators and regulators is invaluable.

During NRA’s strategic planning process, a key takeaway message from stakeholders was, “Rendering plays a critical role in sustainability of the food chain and consumer goods.” NRA will continue to drive this point as a solution for customers and suppliers to improve their green footprint.

Wrapping up its first year, the mission of NRA’s five-year 2020 Strategic Plan is advocating for a sustainable food chain, public health, and the environment via production and marketing of rendered products and services. To accomplish this, NRA promotes effective public policy, regulation, and technology; encourages responsible business practices; supports free movement of rendered products in domestic and international markets; and is improving stakeholder awareness and understanding of rendering’s value.

Rendering plays a critical role in sustainability of the food chain and consumer goods by being economically viable while socially responsible and ecologically sustainable. The basics of sustainability for rendering are:
• Produce safe animal food.
• Practice environmental stewardship and operate efficiently.
• Care for local communities and employees.
• Help feed a hungry world by providing nutritious feed ingredients for animal production by recycling responsibly.

NRA’s new Sustainability Committee is developing an industry-wide framework and providing tools for member companies to create their own sustainability profile. One tool already in place thanks to a Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF)-funded project is an industry carbon footprint calculator that measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted based on individual factors. In addition, a new infographic has been developed showing rendering’s sustainability compared to other disposal methods. NRA will continue to focus on branding and communicating rendering’s sustainability, on helping renderers improve the biosecurity and quality of their finished products, and on encouraging new talent to join the industry. To spread these messages, NRA has engaged with social media, produced a new feed safety video with posters for plant use and FSMA compliance, and upgraded its website with frequently asked questions.

Enhancing communications is very important. A “Rendering 101” teaching module is being developed for university professors to educate agriculture students about rendering, which often is not taught in universities. Using this and additional information, NRA hopes to attract strong new talent to the industry by building interest and enthusiasm.

NRA’s scientific services team provides members with the latest on government regulations and technical information. The staff also promotes rendering’s interests to the federal government, standard-setting organizations, animal health groups, and others influencing government and market decisions. The Animal Protein Producers Industry’s Code of Practice in-person training and online course are the only offerings to renderers nationwide on FSMA compliance.

Ansen Pond, Darling Ingredients Inc., and NRA staff wrote a white paper on thermal validation for members’ use with FSMA auditors that will help with compliance and audits by demonstrating rendering processes are a “kill step” for pathogens. Results from FPRF-funded research with three different universities provided the basis for this paper, which is a good example of synergy between NRA and the foundation. Other NRA activity resulted in workable changes in Association of American Feed Control Officials definitions for used cooking oil, yellow grease, and animal fats.

Telling rendering’s story on Capitol Hill to influence lawmakers on legislation affecting the industry is one of NRA’s top priorities. Association staff work closely with regulators in the varying governing agencies as new rules are developed that could impact rendering and the ability to operate. NRA has a good relationship with many of these agencies and advocates for realistic solutions that can work for its members.

International Arena
NRA has worked for years to increase foreign demand for rendered products and was one of the earliest partners with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive government funds to promote animal proteins, fats, and oils overseas. Today, NRA is awarded $1.8 million each year from USDA to help fund overseas activities. NRA membership dues are also used to help fund this program, which allows team members to teach customers about the benefits of rendered products and bring trade-buying missions and foreign government officials to the United States to meet with renderers selling into the export market.

With 18 percent of total rendered production exported, NRA operates 45 projects in 57 countries with overseas offices in Hong Kong, China, and Mexico City, Mexico, and consultants in poultry, pet food, and European Union policy. In July, USDA finally proposed a small ruminant rule and NRA is urging the government to finalize the rule as soon as possible to allow tallow containing product from small ruminants to be imported into the United States.

China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine is scheduled to visit the United States in November to audit US rendering plants producing non-ruminant animal protein meals. This audit is required every five years for exports to China and needs to be performed by the end of the year to keep exports moving.

A major success this year was reopening the Chinese market for US-rendered poultry products after China closed its borders due to a high pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the United States. NRA worked closely with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Chinese government to make this happen. China is also allowing imports of US tallow after NRA’s lengthy work. The association is coordinating plant certifications for its members wishing to export tallow to China.

A high priority for NRA is gaining access to Mexico’s market for ruminant meat and bone meal. NRA’s regional director has been working on this for a while and is getting closer. Based on science, NRA believes Mexico should open its market immediately since the United States is classified as negligible risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Progress is being made but many forces are at work in this region.

NRA dedicates considerable time assisting members with export issues, such as obtaining an export certificate or the use or misuse of export numbers. This is an important member service. With several new veterinarians at APHIS this year, NRA is providing information about rendering and rendered products to assist them in making more educated and informed decisions affecting exports and foreign markets.

Challenges and the Work Ahead
FSMA is now in place so renderers will be dealing with inspectors and audits in the future. NRA will remain supportive of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard so rendered fats and greases continue to be used in biofuels. With a new president and Congress next year, NRA will work to gain and maintain support for the rendering industry and its products. The association will continue to work on expanding export market access and protecting rendering’s raw material base in the food waste movement, including promoting the good rendering provides by already recycling these waste products.

NRA’s 2020 Strategic Plan is front and center as it starts its second year. Priorities include:
• expanding the understanding of what renderers do and the benefits of rendered products;
• attaining the original goal that the industry’s Code of Practice means participants are FSMA-compliant; and
• growing NRA membership and assisting members with the tools needed in support of sustainability and other areas of importance.

Some potential industry challenges to monitor include:
• human food trends such as no by-products, raw diet, natural, organic, and grain-free that are driving pet food purchases;
• increased attention on additives, residues, and consistent quality in all animal food; and
• further strengthening community relations to ensure continued ability to operate by promoting rendering’s sustainability, jobs, tax base, volunteer commitment, and civic involvement.

The next four years will be very interesting, to say the least, but renderers have a strong organization working on their behalf.

December 2016 RENDER | back