Waste Not, Want Not:
Companies Find Uses for Leftover Animal Parts

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Waste Not, Want Not:
Companies Find Uses for Leftover Animal Parts

By Greg Latshaw, USA Today

The last thing we need in this country is another use for the bodies of animals.

A growing number of companies are turning their attention to creating renewable products — such as adhesives and plastics — from the animal parts that can't be sold on supermarket shelves.

From plastics made from feather protein to diesel fuel made from fat to organic fertilizer made from poultry litter, the USA's top meat producers are developing new uses and markets for the animal parts that humans won't eat, says Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association in Alexandria, Va.

For years, those parts have ended up in cosmetics, soap, pet food and animal feed. Now, meat companies are putting more resources into sustainability programs, says Paul Rutledge of the American Meat Institute's sustainability committee.

At Clemson University, such products are being tested at the South Carolina school's Animal Co-Products Research & Education Center, says center Director Annel Greene.

Greene says there are a number of uses for the leftover materials that have yet to be discovered. "It's fascinating to see everything that can be done," Greene says.

Kathy Guillermo, vice president of laboratory investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says many consumers would be surprised to learn the number of products with animal ingredients in them. She says rendered materials, which are fed to livestock and pets, could spread diseases.

"The last thing we need in this country is another use for the bodies of animals," she says.

Waste materials from meat processing are treated with special considerations at landfills, because they produce strong odors and methane gases when decomposing, said Jeremy O'Brien, director of applied research for the Solid Waste Association of North America. "Anytime you can reduce the amount of waste going into one, you're preserving a resource," O'Brien said.

Among the projects underway: