Did you know that around half of our food-producing animals are considered inedible by many consumers?
Imagine how much waste would be generated across the globe if half of every food-producing animal was discarded.
Enter rendering. The meat industry's solution is responsible for repurposing unconsumable materials. According to the North American Renderers Association (NARA), rendering is an eco-friendly process that converts 99% of unwanted animal material into ingredients for a wide range of products.
Question: What were some of your key learnings from this year’s NARA conference and what is 2024’s outlook for the rendering industry?
Jose: NARA’s annual convention is an opportunity for industry members to share experiences, learnings and challenges faced and there is always so much to learn. Of course, this year was no exception.
One of the most interesting learnings for me was centered around the fact that the United States has become a net importer of fats. Historically, the US has been a fat exporter, but demand and governmental support behind biofuel production have really driven this change and lead to new challenges related to export and import of rendered product.
Amy: As far as the outlook for 2024, it does appear that the rendering industry should remain strong. Largely driven by the livestock industry’s recognition that there is no better protein source for feed conversion or a better rate of gain than animal fats and animal protein.
Question: What are some of the advantages to consumers of rendering animal products?
Jose: One of the advantages is that if we examine the quantity of non-edible animal products generated in the US alone, it amounts to about 50% of overall output. This material would otherwise fill landfills for at least four years if not put to use. Fortunately, there are opportunities to utilize this material for animal nutrition, energy, and other industrial processes.
Amy: The rendering industry is the original environmentally friendly and sustainable industry, yet consumers may not recognize its importance. The industry addresses issues such as landfill waste and has been doing so since its inception. Rendering is the solution that many are looking for but don’t realize it.
Question: How does rendering support economic sustainability?
Amy: Similar to our previous point, this approach involves taking products that would otherwise go to waste and repurposing them. By recycling animal waste and used cooking oil from restaurants, for instance, we not only help the environment but also create a sustainable, cost-efficient solution.
Jose: Furthermore, the rendering industry has also invested time and effort into research, not only looking at co-product use in animal nutrition but also at what other uses they could have. For example, they've been looking at things such as construction materials and even jet fuel! The possibilities are limitless, and it's exciting to see how the industry is evolving.
Question: What challenges does the industry face regarding remaining sustainable?
Jose: When it comes to sustainability, the industry has a wealth of experience and expertise to draw on. Sharing this knowledge with consumers is crucial. However, within the industry, challenges remain. One of these is managing raw materials, including sourcing, exporting, and importing. Each customer has unique requirements, and balancing these needs across sectors is a key challenge. This includes balancing the needs of the feed, pet food, and biofuel sectors, among others. Despite these challenges, the industry has been successful in meeting demand across sectors.
As for feed, there are concerns not just about processing quality, but also about product protection. Traceability and sanitation measures for trucks and feed are essential. Working in partnership to address these challenges will be vital moving forward.
Amy: I fully agree with Jose. The biggest challenge we face in animal agriculture, including rendering, is public misunderstanding. It's not just the general public who harbor misconceptions, but also policymakers who don't fully grasp the importance of rendering as a solution to new challenges like ASF or AI. The question remains: how can we mitigate the risk of viruses, dispose of animal remains, and prevent groundwater contamination? The answer lies in incineration, as it is the most environmentally safe and reliable method. To achieve this, we must work together to spread awareness and educate the public on the benefits of rendering for biosecurity risks.
Question: What can processors do to help mitigate these challenges?
Amy: Marketing is one of the most powerful tools available to any industry, including rendering. Unfortunately, opposing forces have been successful in spreading misinformation to the public. It's crucial that the rendering industry works to educate people with accurate and scientific information. We need to reach those who are not familiar with the agriculture industry and help them understand the benefits of rendering. It's important not to prevent progress just because of a lack of understanding. Let's meet people where they are and inform them about the solutions available.
Jose: There is a high importance behind sharing knowledge and experience beyond our own organizations. Initiatives such as collaborating with high school and college programs and involving our communities can increase awareness and make a positive impact.
In conclusion, rendering is a vital industry that helps to promote sustainability and economic efficiency. By repurposing animal materials that would otherwise go to waste, rendering provides a solution to issues such as landfill waste and helps to create a cost-efficient solution. However, challenges remain, including managing raw materials, public misunderstanding, and balancing the needs of various sectors. With continued education and collaboration, animal agriculture can continue to promote sustainability and economic efficiency in the years to come.