Research Investment Vital to Industry’s Future

By Jessica Meisinger, Director of Education, Science, and Communication
Fats and Proteins Research Foundation

Editor’s note – FPRF Research Wrap-up is a new column that will encompass all activities of the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation, not just those at the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center at Clemson University.

The research program funded by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) is going strong. Investing now helps ensure a strong future for coming generations and builds upon a legacy of innovation and stewardship.

Research is currently being funded in a number of areas, including the quality of rendered products in pet food, enhancing the value of rendered products, odor mitigation, wastewater improvement, novel antioxidants, poultry nutrition, and feed safety. Several researchers have received prestigious outside grants and awards for their FPRF-funded projects, something that not only helps the researcher but also increases the foundation’s reach.

The pet food industry is an important market for renderers. FPRF has funded a number of research projects through the new pet food program at the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University (KSU). Dr. Greg Aldrich is world-renowned for his knowledge of pet food nutrition and is currently working on two projects for FPRF at KSU. One project looks to improve the shelf life of pet food. It is well known that oxidation is a concern in pet food, but the actual level of oxidation in rendered products that is acceptable is not often understood. The second project by Aldrich is to improve antioxidant application. Currently, product flow and spray coating efficacy on rendered protein meal can be variable and antioxidant application can be challenging. This research aims to ensure antioxidants are able to be applied more evenly, decreasing ingredient oxidation.

Another researcher in the KSU program, Dr. Kadri Koppel, is looking to determine the acceptable level of shelf life and product oxidation at the consumer level. She is actually conducting taste panels where people eat the pet food! Oxidation research is important at different levels – if the food is too oxidized for the animal, it will not eat the food. In addition, it is equally important that the consumer buying the pet food not feel the product is too oxidized (and perhaps smell bad) to feed to their animals.

One more project focusing on antioxidants is being conducted at the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center at Clemson University. Drs. Vladimir Reukov and Alexey Vertegel are focusing on finding a novel livestock feed preservative based on antioxidant enzymes extracted from animal blood. FPRF has been funding this research since its inception and the product is nearly ready for the marketplace. The researchers are conducting their final steps of research and will then obtain regulatory approval and business development so that renderers can begin using this all-natural product.

Dr. Jeffre Firman at the University of Missouri has run a number of research studies for FPRF over the years. His field is poultry nutrition research, which is important to pursue as animal genetics have improved – a chicken today is unlike a chicken from 30 years ago due to advancements in breeding. Nutrition research also dictates the diets that nutritionists develop for their clients. Firman is looking at high-fat starter rations for broiler chickens and turkeys and how they improve bird growth and performance.

Enhancing product value is always important to renderers so Drs. Christopher Kitchens and Mark Blenner at Clemson University are approaching how to do that from different directions. Kitchens has been working on an improved technology to use carbon dioxide as a green solvent for extracting more fat from meat and bone meal. Carbon dioxide is non-toxic, chemically inert, inexpensive, abundant, and Food and Drug Administration-approved. A scaled-up version of his project is currently running in rendering plants to see if it can succeed under actual rendering plant conditions. Blenner is researching a new pathway to turn rendered fat into polyunsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are in high demand and sell at a premium, so a feed-grade source of omega-3 fatty acids could be a high-value market for renderers.

Dr. Xiuping Jiang is putting the finishing touches on her research on bacteriophage at Clemson. Bacteriophage are viruses that infect and replicate inside bacteria. This could be used as a control against Salmonella in a rendering plant, especially in areas that are hard to clean. Certain bacteriophage are currently already in the food system to control Listeria monocytogenes in processed meats and cheeses and have been granted generally-recognized-as-safe status by the Food and Drug Administration.

Plant operations are not an area that most research organizations focus on, but they are vitally important to renderers. One research project by Dr. Scott Husson at Clemson is to find a low-energy process for the concentration of stick water. A better method for dealing with stick water would allow renderers to meet city and state water regulations more easily, as well as save money and be more environmentally friendly.

Odor is another major issue that all renderers regularly have to deal with. Dr. Daniel Whitehead at Clemson is working on functional nanoparticles that bind to the malodorous compounds and either inactivate the odor-causing material or remove it altogether. These nanoparticles are biodegradable and environmentally safe. He is moving to scale-up the project to see if it is successful at plant speed.

Another FPRF project is unique. Non-feed uses of rendered products are always important, notably those with the potential of being profitable. Clemson University has the best automotive research facility in the United States and Dr. Srikanth Pilla is exploring a high-strength, odor-free thermoset and composite from rendered proteins for applications in automobiles or other vehicles. The automotive industry has been mandated to become more environmentally friendly and one way to do that would be to use rendered materials!

The research FPRF funds is vital to the rendering industry and changes as the needs of the industry evolve. The foundation focuses on research projects that improve current uses of rendered products and discover new ones to grow demand, increase rendering efficiency with new technologies to improve operations, reduce costs, promote product quality and safety, and enhance the sustainability of rendering and its contribution to customers’ environmental footprint.

February 2016 RENDER | back