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The Importance of Advocating for the Rendering Industry
Myths versus Facts
Myth: “Foot and Mouth Disease would have to be dealt with differently than Avian Influenza because you can’t render chickens due to the feathers”
Truth: Rendering can dispose of carcasses, feathers, and offal in an environmentally friendly way
I heard that particular myth at Wide Area Recovery and Resiliency Program meeting last year. I looked around and most of the people in the room were nodding their heads. It was at that moment that I knew something had stopped working correctly with our government relations with the Department of Homeland Security. Not only are there rendering companies that deal almost exclusively in chickens but the feathers can be hydrolyzed into their own product—feathermeal. To say that chickens can’t be rendered shows a concerning lack of knowledge about the rendering industry by some government officials and consultants there to answer questions.
Why does it even matter? The particular meeting I was at was talking about what the government should do in an animal disease outbreak. Rendering, along with landfills and perhaps composting, were shown as being part of the solution. Landfill operators were sitting at the table too but renderers had been missing from the discussion. Because of this, the group had up-to-date information on landfills but said misstatement after misstatement about the rendering industry. It was important because the information from the set of meetings was going to be used to draft a set of recommendations for the government in the case of foreign disease outbreak such as Foot and Mouth Disease.
That being said, they were willing to learn. Since that original meeting I have attended 3 more meetings, presenting at all three about the rendering industry. People want to know more. They are interested in rendering and understand that it’s vital. The rendering industry has spent a lot of years being invisible and it’s going to take some time for people—even people in the agriculture industry—to understand exactly what it is we do. The last meeting I went to about waste disposal in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak included a number of state veterinarians and state public information officers. The more they can truly understand and appreciate the rendering industry before a major news event, the better.
It is particularly important to keep up to date with government groups because of the constant turnover in the government. There is a constant flow in and out of Washington and even though it feels like you are constantly talking to public officials, the truth is they might be different people than were at the meeting the year before. This can be a particularly obvious problem when contrasted with the rendering industry, where many of the operations are family businesses, and people work their whole lives at the same company.
Rendering is a vital part of sustainable agricultural production. Renderers take the parts of animals that North Americans choose not to utilize and make them into valuable products like livestock feed, pet food, biofuel, fertilizer, and other industrial products. The truth about rendering is much different than you may have been told.
What’s the point of starting a blog? And what is this blog about?
When I was hired as Director of Education and Communication for the National Renderers Association and the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation it was made clear to me that there was a breakdown in communication in many places—between FPRF and rendering companies, between rendering companies and the public, between rendering companies and the rest of the agriculture industry. If you ask your average meat packing plant employee what happens to bones or meat after it is sent down the chute (in plants that do their own rendering, it’s usually in the basement), they will shrug their shoulders. If you ask farmers what happens to his dead livestock after the rendering truck comes, they probably don’t know. People who think they know may be thinking of the rendering industry of 30 years ago rather than the current one. Or, worse yet, they may get very wrong information from a website claiming to know something they don’t.
Why now? Now is the perfect time to educate the agriculture industry and the public about rendering. Rendering is recycling and people are caring more and more about being “green”. What is more green than taking something that could have been thrown in a landfill and not only been wasted but decomposed into dangerous greenhouse gases and instead making valuable products that can go into pet food, animal feed, biodiesel, or fertilizer? Not only are we recycling but we are saving products such as other protein or fat sources for other uses! It is important that people know that rendered products are safe, quality products that they should feel good about.
Why us? The National Renderers Association is the leading authority on the subject of rendering in the US is our organization and our Foundation. While we are not in the day to day business of rendering, all of our members are. They represent over 90% of the total rendering business in this country. We have our fingers on the pulse of the industry with all its issues, markets, uses of the products and the value it brings to society.
What changes? This will be an opportunity for those within our industry to learn what others are doing and how they can benefit from this knowledge. Those outside the primary rendering industry may include suppliers, customers, other agricultural industries, or just individuals curious about this interesting and green industry. Every one of these audiences will benefit from a better understanding from these discussions.
What will the blog cover? This blog will cover a wide variety of topics important to the rendering industry and the agriculture industry at large. Hopefully there will be guest posters and the blog will publish about once a month. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Renderers or sign up to have the blog posts mailed to you by clicking on the sidebar.