The Year in Review

By Nancy Foster, President, National Renderers Association

This year will go down as a good but challenging year for the United States (US) and Canadian rendering industries, and for the National Renderers Association (NRA). The association is proud of its results and what has been accomplished so far, with new tools to help members comply with the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), more communications to members, increased overseas market access, and an active presence in Washington, DC.

While renderers had their share of challenges, NRA responded to each one head-on, representing the industry’s best interests, protecting the market, and promoting rendering’s important role. NRA’s accomplishments helped achieve important strides for the US and Canadian rendering industries. From training renderers on how to comply with FSMA to opening the Chinese market for US tallow, and from developing new infographics promoting the industry to supporting biodiesel and sensible regulations, this has been an eventful and demanding year for renderers and NRA.

NRA’s Board of Directors is a strong group of committed leaders. At the helm this year have been Chairman Tim Guzek of Sanimax, Vice Chairman Ridley Bestwick of West Coast Reduction, and Second Vice Chairman Doyle Leefers of National Beef Packing Company, along with members of the association’s executive committee. NRA’s 11 working committees provided direction to individual association programs and made recommendations to the board of directors.

It speaks volumes about NRA and the rendering industry that there are so many members eager to share their knowledge and talents. In all, some 73 individuals from rendering companies across the United States and Canada stepped forward to serve on NRA committees. As a member-driven organization, the association thrives with each member’s support and input to continue its important work.

The association represents over 95 percent of rendering production in both countries. Active members are independent renderers (many of which are multi-generational family-owned companies) and integrated packer-renderers who process their own animal by-products. NRA also welcomes suppliers of rendering services and products as associate members. Together, the board, volunteers, and active and associate members here and abroad continue to further the mission of NRA with programs and services that add value to the industry.

NRA’s mission is to advocate for a sustainable food chain, public health, and the environment through the 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 works to improve stakeholder awareness and understanding of the value of rendering.

NRA’s financial footing is sound with commitment to a conservative budget to get the job done. The group depends upon membership dues to make its programs possible. These dues also provide the cost-share funds needed to qualify for $1.8 million in US federal grants NRA receives each year to promote the export of rendered products.

Some highlights of NRA’s work this year to improve opportunities for renderers and their business partners are as follows.

Industry Information, Science, and Regulation
NRA’s scientific services provide members with relevant and timely information, and promote the interests of the rendering industry to regulators, standard-setting organizations, and others influencing government and market decisions. Providing specialized training for NRA members to comply with FSMA was a high priority this year. The Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI) Committee held a training seminar to instruct industry personnel on how to comply with this new regulation and become preventative control certified individuals under the provisions of the law. This training was also available online through a course developed by NRA with Kansas State University. While FSMA training is available elsewhere, this is the only course on rendering compliance. So far, 166 people have received this training.

This year, the rendering industry’s biosecurity program continued its work to improve the microbiological quality of animal proteins and feed fats by providing a weekly testing program and continuing education. In addition to FSMA training, APPI created a new video and posters to assist renderers with educating employees on basic animal food safety as required by FSMA. APPI also developed a white paper validating rendering cooker temperatures based on data from several research projects funded by the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF).

NRA’s new Sustainability Committee began creating an industry-wide data profile and is working to provide tools for individual companies to develop their own sustainability profiles. FPRF-sponsored research by Dr. Charles Gooding at Clemson University resulted in a carbon footprint tool that calculates rendering efficiencies of energy use to measure sustainability. Gooding also recently published a scientific journal article about how rendering is a more sustainable method of handling meat by-products than composting or anaerobic digestion.

NRA worked successfully this year with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on revised definitions for rendered feed ingredients. Improvements were made in AAFCO’s initial proposals, resulting in new definitions for used cooking oil and yellow grease acceptable to the rendering industry. In addition, there were changes to the animal fats definitions that the industry supports overall. AAFCO terminated the feeding fat definition that could have affected the use of trap grease and will soon begin considering revisions to nearly all feed ingredient definitions, including rendered proteins. NRA will continue to monitor these technical developments closely.

Promoting Exports, Expanding Trade
The goal of NRA’s international market development program is to expand exports by increasing overseas demand for rendered products. The program also provides technical trade servicing assistance for members who encounter trade restrictions or other problems. Overall, 18 percent of total US production is exported; 18 percent of rendered animal proteins and 17 percent of rendered fat is sold overseas. Top markets are Mexico, China, Indonesia, Chile, the European Union (EU), and Canada.

NRA receives approximately $1.8 million annually from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop, maintain, and open foreign markets. NRA cost-shares with USDA to operate 45 projects in 57 countries, two overseas offices (in Hong Kong, China, and Mexico City, Mexico), and nine consultants in aquaculture, poultry, pet food, and EU policy. These programs enable the rendering industry to have a unified effort to grow its exports.

In July, USDA proposed its long-awaited rule on small ruminant imports to finish bringing US bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) import regulations into compliance with the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE. NRA advocated for this rule for years. Without it, trade in small ruminants and their products from countries affected by BSE and/or scrapie has been severely restricted. Renderers from Canada who might have small ruminant products in their yellow grease or used cooking oil and/or tallow have been unable to export to the United States. NRA submitted regulatory comments in support of USDA’s proposed rule that would allow small ruminant tallow to be imported to the United States. The association recommended the rule be finalized as soon as possible.

Throughout the years, NRA has hosted visiting trade delegations, foreign buying teams, and technical inspectors who want to learn about US rendering and its quality products, and to visit processing plants. This fall, individuals from China’s Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine plan to visit the United States to audit the US production system for non-ruminant processed animal protein meal exports. This audit is a requirement every five years for companies wanting to export these products to China. NRA is working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the American Feed Industry Association, and the Pet Food Institute to arrange this important trip in November. The audit needs to be completed by the end of the year to avoid trade disruption.

After China closed its borders to US poultry products because of the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States last year, NRA successfully worked with USDA/APHIS and the Chinese government to develop a technical protocol to reopen the market. This year, NRA also gained new market access for US tallow into China after lengthy work with both governments and is coordinating member company plant certification so exports can begin. NRA continues to pursue gaining market access into Mexico for US ruminant meat and bone meal.

At APHIS’ invitation, NRA provided rendering training to new agency veterinarians to encourage well-informed decisions on import and export regulations.

Rendering’s Story on Capitol Hill
With many new members in Congress this year, education about rendering and its challenges was a top priority. As a result, congressmen and senators could make more knowledgeable decisions about environmental, biodiesel, animal food safety, export funding, and other issues affecting the rendering business. Collaborating with customer associations continued as an important part of NRA’s effective advocacy, including working with beef, pork, poultry, animal feed and pet food, and biodiesel producers. Working in coalitions sends a common message with maximum impact.

In June, renderers from across the country attended NRA’s 16th Annual Washington Fly-in for policy briefings and congressional meetings. National speakers talked about the agricultural economic outlook, livestock and poultry markets, and the fall elections. Participants met with USDA’s new chief veterinarian, Dr. Jack Shere, who plans to work closely with the industry to prepare for possible future animal disease outbreaks. Breakfast with Representative David Rouzer (R-NC), chairman of the House Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, was a meeting highlight.

Renderers held over 200 meetings on Capitol Hill with their elected representatives on important rendering issues. These included the industry’s sustainability, the need to extend biomass-based diesel tax credits beyond 2016, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), water and air environmental regulations, food waste disposal, and the significance of strong export funding for USDA. To encourage continued expansion of biomass-based diesel production, NRA advocated for a higher 2014-2016 RFS for advanced biofuel than was announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NRA joined an amicus (”friend of the court”) brief in support of the National Biodiesel Board’s legal challenge against the agency contesting its use of waiver authority to set the RFS at a lower level than intended by Congress. If successful, the lawsuit will prevent EPA from establishing a reduced waiver-based RFS in the future.

Efforts to divert food waste from landfills emerged at the national level this year with legislation introduced in the House and Senate to encourage alternative disposal methods. NRA educated legislators that raw material going to rendering plants is not food waste. Some industries support government incentives to gain access to this material and dispose of it in other ways, such as anaerobic digestion or composting. NRA opposes such incentives and believes a level playing field is best among competing interests.

To explain rendering’s interest in food waste, NRA met with the congressional bill sponsors, EPA, USDA, and members of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance representing food and beverage companies, food retailers, and the foodservice industry. While the current legislation will die at the end of this Congress, NRA is working with bill sponsors on improvements in the event it is reintroduced next year.

Communications and Education
This year, NRA engaged in social media to promote rendering and produced, on behalf of the APPI Committee, a new video with posters for member plants to enhance animal food safety and FSMA compliance. A new infographic on food waste disposal was also developed for use on Capitol Hill and with regulators. NRA staff presented speeches to a wide variety of audiences and responded to media questions about rendering.

A popular new section with frequently asked questions was added to the NRA website in addition to the launch of an NRA Update industry newsletter and “Rendering 101” teaching module for university professors in meat science and other courses. By increasing understanding among undergraduate and graduate students, the industry seeks to build enthusiasm for rendering and attract new top-flight individuals to a career in the industry.

NRA’s meetings provide educational and networking opportunities for its members. In April, NRA’s Board of Directors and committees met and were joined by APHIS officials to discuss exporting more rendered products. NRA’s annual convention each October continues to be the premier gathering for North American renderers, who are joined by colleagues from around the world. NRA members gain new market intelligence from a variety of speakers addressing topics such as sustainability, livestock markets, and the rapidly growing pet food industry.

Looking Ahead
This has been a fast-paced year and 2017 looks to be even more so. If you are not an NRA member, I invite you to become part of our efforts. NRA connects you, as a member, to the information, resources, programs, and advocacy needed for business success. NRA works to improve your business and provide tools to get you there.

October 2016 RENDER | back