The Environmental Impact
The livestock and poultry industries of North America use state-of-the-art technology in genetics, feeding, husbandry and production practices, contributing to the continued substantial growth and efficiency of these industries. This translates into a per capita meat consumption that is among the highest in the world thanks to its abundance, relative cost, safety and recognized quality.
The North American rendering industry renders and recycles approximately 59 billion pounds of inedible animal by-products annually. The by-products’ sources vary from livestock and poultry carcasses plus offal, spent cooking fats and oils, fat trimmings, bones, other meat and poultry processed material considered unwholesome from slaughter and processing facilities, and waste material from supermarkets and restaurants.
This diversity of inedible animal by-products accounts for approximately 11 billion pounds of reclaimed animal fat annually. The use of rendered fat is a concentrated source of energy for animal and poultry feeds as well as a high quality feedstock for biodiesel. Undoubtedly, the rendering process provides the most logical and environmentally acceptable approach for recycling animals and inedible material into usable commodities.
Although there are other technologies, rendering is the most logical approach. It is more efficient at capturing and recycling energy than anaerobic digestion, which is slow and produces greenhouse gases. Rendering can recycle products on the same day they are received into feed ingredients for livestock production or into biofuel.
If these byproducts were allowed to decompose in landfills, compost piles, or buried, and the carbon in these byproducts was released as CO2, the impact would be the same as adding 3,201,986 cars to the nation’s roads (using the EPA estimate of 5.46 metric ton per car). However, if 20% of the carbon in decaying organic material is expressed as methane and 10% of the nitrogen is expressed as nitrous oxide, then removing these products from the waste stream (because these greenhouse gasses have global warming potentials that are substantially greater than CO2) would be the same as removing 12,263,316 cars from the nation’s roads.