A Good Year for Research

By Doug Smith, Chairman, Fats and Proteins Research Foundation

Editor’s note – The following is a speech, in part, given by Doug Smith, Baker Commodities Inc., at the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation annual meeting in October in Santa Barbara, California.

The Fats and Proteins Research Foundation (FPRF) is currently conducting some of the most progressive and potentially impactful research ever to advance the rendering industry. As the industry’s research organization, FPRF works hard to ensure the research funded is relevant and valuable for renderers. This is vital to help ensure a healthy future for the industry.

FPRF has three important goals: to enhance use of rendered animal products, improve rendering technologies, and develop new applications. FPRF supports and welcomes research proposals from across the continent and beyond that focus on animal nutrition, novel uses, biosecurity, food safety, environment, and sustainability. This generates new knowledge to help renderers meet increased regulatory scrutiny and customer expectations.

FPRF had a good year in 2017 with continued partnership with the Poultry Protein and Fats Council that is expected to continue. The Pet Food Institute partnered with the foundation last year and new joint research is being proposed for the coming year. FPRF is currently funding 17 research projects at five universities across the country. With this tremendous traction, increased participation in funding is needed to keep up with the opportunities.

Founded in 2006 and located at Clemson University in South Carolina, the Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC) was developed to advance the science and technology of animal by-products and the rendering process. Currently, there are 12 projects at ACREC that started in 2016 and 2017 and five projects at other universities such as Colorado State, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kentucky. Four new proposals from other universities were reviewed in October with only the very best ideas funded in this competitive process.

The unique thing about Clemson is that rendering research has been conducted there for about 15 years now, developing a critical mass of faculty familiar with rendering. They are engaged in solving some of the industry’s toughest challenges, including water cleanup, odor control, oxidation prevention, new products, and so on. ACREC director Dr. Annel Greene is the 2017 recipient of the FPRF Dr. Fred Bisplinghoff Research Innovation Award for her tireless work and leadership in developing the center (see story on next page).

Clemson researchers Vladimir Reukov and Alexey Vertegel received FPRF’s Dr. Fred Bisplinghoff Research Innovation Award in 2016 for their work extracting a natural antioxidant from animal blood. They continue to make good progress on getting the product commercialized through their company, VRM Labs. Reukov and Vertegel are also using a by-product from that project, red blood cells, to develop renderable flocculants for wastewater treatment. They have partnered with Dr. Rafael Garcia of the United States Department of Agriculture on that project.

Another project at ACREC aims to convert rendered fats into high-value omega-3 oils. This year, the team is scaling up the previously successful lab-sized experiment using engineered bacteria to convert saturated and monounsaturated animal fats into polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, the two principle omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. The expected outcomes of this proposal include anon-pathogenic yeast strain capable of converting rendered fats into PUFA and other oleochemicals in large fermentation vessels at profitable yields.

Dr. Dan Whitehead has worked at Clemson University for six years solving odor problems. He researched synthesized modified lactide nanoparticles that bear functional reactive sites capable of capturing odor constituents associated with rendering. Using what he learned, Whitehead is now working to generate lower cost, effective odor control products from natural materials including clays and cellulose. This could be a huge breakthrough for neighbor relations and compliance.

Clemson scientists have worked to squeeze more fat out of crax, characterize meat and bone meal as a natural fertilizer, and use animal proteins as car parts and nursery pots. They have collected data used effectively by the National Renderers Association (NRA) to support rendering’s sustainability claims and helped the industry refute false claims that feather meal was highly contaminated.

FPRF is funding a new research project to transform meat and bone meal into astaxanthin, a high-value natural antioxidant that gives salmon meat its rich pink color. The foundation has also financed a number of projects that may lead to better ways to extract proteins and fats from slaughterhouse and rendering wastewater and is currently funding a project to generate electricity and peroxide from wastewater.

Although not everything pans out as hoped, a steady flow of successes eventually ends up in some big home runs.

The foundation has a solid track record of success and has laid the foundation to use animal fat and used cooking oil to make biodiesel and validated rendering cooker temperatures to satisfy animal food safety regulations. FPRF research developed information published in a scientific journal to refute composting and anaerobic digestion as green rendering alternatives and established rendered proteins as legitimate ingredients for poultry, livestock, fish, shrimp, and pet foods.

There is good synergy between FPRF and NRA. NRA uses FPRF research results to promote and defend the industry to the public, media, regulators, Congress, and other stakeholders. Examples are the thermal validation work, sustainability data, and lifecycle analysis for rendering used to enhance the industry’s reputation and ability to operate. NRA also provides management support for the foundation that makes for good efficiency benefitting both organizations.

At a series of universities, a number of FPRF-funded projects were conducted on controlling Salmonella and other contaminants with the goal of continued improvement of rendered products while offering recycling services to society. Future projects may develop additives or filters to ensure Salmonella-free fats at the point of use. This will enhance animal food safety and would mean fewer problems for suppliers and customers alike.

FPRF could do more, accomplish more, and further enhance the future of rendering if more join the foundation. I invite you as renderers and partners in this wonderful industry to support FPRF with a contribution to help improve rendering operations and long-term strength. It is our future to create and the possibilities are tremendous. Yes, we are all fierce competitors in the market, but together we can keep building FPRF to fund major research that would be hard – or impossible – for each company to do alone. No one else will do this for the industry.

FPRF regularly has to turn down promising research proposals that could be funded with additional resources. With your support, FPRF could do more to benefit each company and the industry, which produce incredible products but also face major challenges. FPRF is an important part of solving these problems, whether it is odor, water quality, creating new markets, or better animal diets. I invite you to join us on this journey.

December 2017 RENDER | back