In the United States, approximately 55 billion pounds of animal co-products are generated annually. These inedible tissues are produced concurrently with the production of meat, milk, eggs and animal fibers. This material can represent up to 40 to 50 percent of the live weight of each slaughtered food animal and is increasing annually as further processed, pre-packaged and table-ready animal products are marketed.
Currently, a significant portion of animal co-products is utilized as animal feed. With concerns related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the use of these materials for feed purposes has been challenged. However, there would be significant environmental, public and animal health impacts without an industry dedicated to processing malodorous, raw and perishable animal tissues. These impacts will result in increased costs to the livestock growers, the food animal processing industries, and consumers. Animal co-products also are used to produce numerous industrial and consumer products including biofuels, fertilizers, soap, rubber and plastics. Research is needed in these areas to continue new product development for non-feed, non-food uses of animal co-products.
Rendering is the recycling of fats and protein from food animal production into a variety of value-added products. During rendering, heat is applied to the raw animal materials – which include tissues, bones, hooves, horns and entrails – to destroy microbial populations, remove moisture and extract fat from the protein.
It is imperative to society that the rendering industry remains viable. Finding new non-feed, non-food uses from animal co-products to allow profitable new ventures with the rendering industry, and addressing the challenges of biosecurity, environmental protection, new product development and education, are major goals of the Clemson University Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center.