Reports from IPPE 2024

NARA advocates for rendering's crucial role in circular economy, challenges exclusion from US food waste strategy

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/SolStock
© GettyImages/SolStock

Related tags North American Renderers Association Environmental Protection Agency landfill GFLI

NARA urges the EPA, USDA, and FDA to recognize the pivotal role played by the US rendering industry in curbing food loss, waste, and minimizing the overall ecological footprint of food production.

Expressing surprise at the exclusion of rendering from the draft US national strategy for reducing food loss and waste, the North American Renderers Association (NARA) has submitted comments ​to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the joint policy document developed with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Kent Swisher, CEO of NARA, said that as the largest recyclers of organic food loss and waste (FLW), the omission of renderers in the plan was disappointing. He insisted that the final strategy must acknowledge rendering's integral contribution to reducing FLW by diverting material from landfills and fostering a circular economy.

He highlighted the necessity of rendering in achieving the US goal of a 50% reduction in food loss and waste by 2030.

And Swisher also stressed the importance of collaboration with the EPA, USDA, and FDA in expanding the organic recycling market through research initiatives at Fats and Proteins Research Foundation​ (FPRF) and the Animal Co-Products Research & Education Center​ (ACREC). 

Advocacy at IPPE

During a conference parallel to IPPE 2024, Dr Charles Starkey, NARA's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, underscored the nutritional and environmental benefits of using animal byproducts in pet food formulations. 

“Pet food companies are facing a lot of pressure to reach sustainability goals that were set by the likes of Walmart and Petco and their customers, and we want to help them achieve those targets."

He emphasized that rendering, deeply intertwined with 12 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offers an optimal solution for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to meat proteins. The process efficiently processes inedible parts of animals, transforming them into sustainable fats and protein meals, significantly contributing to the circular economy, avoiding landfill, and mitigating food waste.

Furthermore, the rendering industry's positive impact extends beyond animal feed and pet food, encompassing the recycling of used cooking oil, reclamation of water resources, and contributing significantly to the US economy, he continued.

Debunking myths around beef tallow use

Dr Starkey also underscored the importance of dispelling emerging myths related to agriculture, particularly addressing concerns about the use of beef tallow in pet food. Some NGOs and commentators have linked beef tallow sourcing to deforestation in the Amazon. He emphasized the environmentally friendly practice of repurposing and reusing tallow, highlighting its positive impact on sustainability.

“We have to do a better of educating stakeholders around these topics. Deforestation to make poor pasture land to raise new cows [in Latin America] is not climate friendly. Repurposing and reusing tallow and preventing it from going to waste and using it to produce protein for human consumption is extremely eco-friendly.”

Collaborative efforts with the Pet Food Alliance​ and ongoing initiatives with Colorado State University reflect NARA's commitment to innovation, sustainability, and transparency in the rendering process, he continued.

New pet food industry concepts

NARA is engaging in collaborative efforts with the pet food industry, fostering innovation and exploring novel concepts that not only contribute to advancing product development but also assist industry stakeholders in achieving their carbon reduction targets, maintains Dr Starkey.

Many of its members have ventured into the production of frozen blocks or fresh meat slurry ingredients, supplying them to pet food processors. This approach serves as an alternative method to diminish energy inputs, ultimately enhancing the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) score, claims the NARA spokesperson.

GFLI datasets

As NARA engages in collaborations to enhance data transparency and sustainability-related information, Dr Starkey highlighted new data, generated via NARA’s partnership with consultancy, Decision Innovation Solutions, that indicates the low GHG emissions intensity of rendered products, positioning them favorably in life cycle assessments compared to other pet food ingredients.

ghg emissions of pet food NARA DIS

NARA has also initiated a project in partnership with the GFLI​ to generate LCA datasets for US rendered animal byproducts, which Dr Starkey said will further solidify the organization’s commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability in the rendering industry.

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