What do animal renderers make from butcher’s waste and animal by-products – and why is rendering so green?
328 million pigs, sheep, goats, and cows and 6 billion poultry birds are slaughtered each year in the EU. Each carcass contains a substantial amount of material we can’t (or don’t want to) eat. To give just three examples – only 75% of a chicken is used for human consumption, 66% of a pig, and 58% of a cow. This means there is a huge amount of butchers’ waste and other animal by-product (ABP) material to dispose of.
Some of this material presents a low risk to public health (as long as it’s dealt with promptly). Low risk material includes slaughterhouse and butchers’ waste from animals fit for human consumption at the time of slaughter. Other material is high risk, such as animals that have died from disease, and cow’s spinal cords, which can carry infections that cause CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) and other fatal conditions.
The waste disposal challenge
The challenge is how to dispose of this material both safely and in the greenest possible way. If not managed properly, animal carcasses and by-products present a serious health and environmental risk to both people and livestock. And sending animal by-products to landfill or incineration is a waste of the resources used to produce the meat and also of the rich nutrients still available in the material.
How rendering solves the waste disposal problem
Rendering provides a safe, secure, and sustainable solution.
Thanks to modern technologies, animal rendering businesses can now turn almost all ABPs into usable products and materials. Remarkably, 99% of the material sent for rendering is put to good use. At the same time, tight biosecurity controls and full traceability prevent the spread of disease.
So what exactly do animal renderers make from butchers’ waste and ABPs – and why is rendering so green?
Processed animal protein
Meat, bone and blood from low risk material are processed and turned into what’s called processed animal protein (PAP), used for feed ingredients. PAP is an environmentally-friendly alternative to imported soya meal: making PAP creates only 10% of the greenhouse gases of soya production.
PAP is also used in feed for fish farms, as a replacement for feed made from caught wild fish.
A further use for meat and bone by-products is as fertilizer. First, the material is burnt, to remove pathogens (organisms that can cause disease). The ash then forms the basis of a nutrient-rich fertiliser free from mined or imported chemicals. European renderers produce enough phosphorus every year to fertilise arable land the size of 3 million football pitches and enough nitrogen for 500, 000 pitches.
Industrial and animal feed fats
Animal fats recovered and processed by renderers are used in some animal feed and pet food, and in chemical industry products including toiletries. These recycled animal fats play a significant role in reducing the demand for palm oil. Across the EU, 950, 000 tonnes of rendered fat are used in the animal feed industry each year and 575,000 tonnes in the chemical industry. That’s a lot of oil palm trees not needed and potential forest destruction prevented.
In addition, both rendered meat and bone material and rendered animal fats are recycled into fuels. Both low and high risk material are used to produce biodiesel, which generates just 15% of the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil diesel. With most of Europe’s biofuel currently coming from palm oil plantations, the use of ABP-derived biodiesel is a further way to reduce palm oil demand. High risk material is processed into fuels burnt as a coal replacement in power stations and cement kilns.