Oh where oh where can the by-products go?
Could risky meat by-products be turned into energy?
No it’s not that I have gone to reporting on energy these days. But I have discovered a possible means for the inferior garbage that gets dumped into pet food to be turned into valuable energy. Something that seems to be a far better method to discard of left over animal waste materials than becoming dog food or cat food ingredients.
As a result of processing human food a tremendous amount of waste is produced every single day; from left over animal parts to diseased and euthanized animals rejected for use in human food (speaking strictly of the meat industry). Not that my concern is the profits of the livestock industry, it’s not; my concern is pet food. But there are very few profitable outlets for this material except as an ingredient(s) in dog and cat food. Without the pet food option, the industry complains that these by-products of human food would otherwise become a costly expense to destroy and an environmental hazard. My guess would be this is part of the reasoning behind the FDA’s action providing the pet food industry a loophole to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; allowing otherwise outlawed ingredients into pet food.
The rendering industry currently has the job of recycling all types of waste; from food processing waste to used restaurant grease into finished products that are later processed into pet food, cosmetics, and fertilizers (not a complete list). Per a 2004 letter to the FDA from one renderer in Texas – the state of Texas has four packing houses processing approximately 100,000 head of cattle per week. An estimate of 20 pounds per head is considered ‘specified risk materials’ (brain and spinal column) by the FDA. Specified Risk Materials or SRM’s are a known ‘risk’ to spread BSE or mad cow disease. ‘Downer’ and diseased cattle must be euthanized and are also considered SRM material. SRM’s are not allowed to be processed into human food and must be properly destroyed or thanks to the loopholes provided by the FDA, SRM’s can be processed into pet food. With the 2004 numbers – Texas alone produces 104 million pounds of SRM material each year. The estimate to properly destroy the SRM materials in Texas is over $70 million dollars a year. The risk to pets consuming SRM material in pet food is not exactly known. We do know that Mad Cow Disease has crossed species into cats and mink worldwide.
Current FDA plans is for the practice of allowing SRM material in pet food to be stopped in 2009. Many doubt this will ever occur; suspecting heavy lobbying efforts of the pet food and livestock industries to delay the 2009 deadline. But, just looking at this one type of waste that should not be processed into any type of food – over 52,000 tons (2004 estimate) in the state of Texas alone has no where else to go except pet food without huge costs and environmental impact.
Needless to say, when you think about every area of the United States, consider the huge amount of specified risk materials, and when you consider all waste produced from processing all human food in the U.S. – the tons and tons of waste is staggering. I have no issue with processing healthy internal organs of slaughtered animals that are not utilized in human food into pet food. But I continue to have a problem with true waste materials and materials the FDA calls Specified Risk Materials processed into pet food. However, there is still that lingering issue of where should the SRM’s and other waste material go?
A little research led me to what seems to be a perfect solution to several problems…Biogas Systems. Biogas Systems turn organic waste (all types of waste) into usable fuel. According to Practical Action (www.practicalaction.org) “It is a process whereby organic matter is broken down by microbiological activity and takes place in the absence of air. It is a phenomenon that occurs naturally at the bottom of ponds and marshes and gives rise to ‘marsh gas’ or methane, which is a combustible gas. It also takes place naturally in landfill sites and contributes to harmful greenhouse gases. Biogas can be produced by digesting human, animal or vegetable waste in specially designed digesters. Animal waste is particularly suitable for biogas production because it is often available in large quantities and also has a suitable C:N ratio.”
According to a paper on the United Nations University website (http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/80434e/80434E0j.htm) “A thousand cubic feet of processed biogas is equivalent to 600 cubic feet of natural gas, 6.4 gallons of butane, 5.2 gallons of gasoline, or 4.6 gallons of diesel oil. For cooking and lighting, a family of four would consume 150 cubic feet of biogas per day.”
In recent years several biogas projects have been built in developed and developing countries around the world. One pilot project implemented in Colombo, Sri Lanka turns 480 tons of organic waste into 7500 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. And the new system also yields 300 tons of saleable fertilizer each year. Before this project, all the waste had to be placed in landfills.
Using the Sri Lanka example – the 52,000 tons of JUST specified risk material waste from Texas alone, could produce over 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Cost estimates of construction and running biogas plants have proven to pay for themselves within six years.
Bio gas systems have shown benefits here in the U.S. as well. A January 2005 paper prepared for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory by the Franklin County (Ohio) Sanitary Landfill reports amazing energy production from a landfill. Using only ¼ of the Franklin County Landfill – the biogas system produces an average of 3,430 gallons of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) per day. The paper tells the Franklin County Landfill operates 20 trucks year round that utilize the LNG fuel. The LNG produced using only ¼ of the landfill, fuels all twenty trucks with 93.5% of the fuel production left over! If the entire land fill was utilized 22,080 gallons of LNG per day could be produced. Franklin County estimates the cost of the LNG fuel to be $.66 per gallon. Here’s the link to the full report (very interesting) from the U.S. Department of Energy website – click on the link to download the Franklin County report…
I am not a scientist and have spent only a few hours researching biogas plants. What I have learned seems to make so much sense. The possibility of turning SRM materials and millions of tons of other waste into energy appears to be a fantastic opportunity. The result could lessen our dependence on foreign oil and for my purposes here could stop the unacceptable practice of highly inferior ingredients becoming part of your pet’s diet. Learn what your pet is eating. Euthanized animals and SRM material can be included in the pet food ingredients ‘Animal Fat’, ‘By-products’ (all variations), ‘Meat and Bone Meal’, and ‘Animal Digest’. Look for and avoid these ingredients in your pet’s food and treats.
Wishing you and your pet the best,
Truth About Pet Food
More articles on pet foods and pet treats can be found here: http://www.TruthAboutPetFood.com/PawsClub.html
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