There are a lot of different definitions of rendering but the one I am speaking of is “to melt down, to extract by melting or to treat so as to convert into industrial fats, oil and fertilizer.” I have first-hand knowledge of this process, having worked as the head of rendering for a large commercial pork plant years ago. Even though rendering has been around for eons, it has always been regarded as an invisible industry, not because of the great products produced nor because of the sparing impact it has on the environment. No, the reason mostly has to do with the beginning product. In many instances, rendering plants take the unwanted biological refuse from farms and packing plants and the spent oil from restaurants and turn them into many useful products.

I also have experience with large-scale pig farming. Certainly, one inevitable consequence of raising livestock is that there will be some animals that die prematurely. Also, in this country we do not consume all the parts of animals after slaughter like many countries do, most notably many Asian countries. These animals and parts could be incinerated at a great cost financially and environmentally. They could be dumped into landfills which is not sustainable considering the massive requirement for space. At one time, they were buried, but the cost to water quality with the potential for groundwater contamination was too great. Or they could be turned into very useful feeds, pet foods, fertilizers, fuels, etc.

This is a great message to tell. It uses words like original recyclers, green results, high quality pet foods, biodiesel, sparing of landfills, environmentally friendly, negative carbon footprint, etc. In fact, the National Renderers Association has just released a new 11-minute video making the case for this valuable industry. It can be viewed on YouTube at

The video was viewed over 1000 times in its first week of release, partly because it is so well done and has such a compelling message. I had my brother-in-law, Andy, who is in the carpet business in Denver, view the short communications piece. When I asked him what he thought, he said that he never knew anything about rendering but now he loves it.

Rendering is not something too many of us in livestock production, harvesting or processing think about often. However, it certainly is a positive, high technology profit center that provides a variety of useful by-products from which we all benefit in our daily lives. I agree with Andy: I, too, love rendering for what it is, what it does and what it provides for society.

My connections with the rendering industry go way back but they are stronger now than ever. In addition to running a high technology rendering plant back in the day, I have toured many rendering plants throughout the industry. One of the cleanest and neatest of those is the rendering facility in conjunction with the Hormel plant in Austin. In fact that is where my daughter saw a rendering operation for the first time (she was 16 years old). She was so impressed that it stimulated her to pursue a career passion considered enviable in any youth.  Jessica earned her doctorate degree in meat science at Colorado State University under the tutelage of Dr. Keith Belk but also had the opportunity to study national rendering plants with mentoring from Dr. Gary Smith of CSU. This prepared her for the position she now holds at the National Renderers Association as head of communications. She wrote in her letter of application for the position that she has a passion for rendering. I told her to bold type that and underline it. Not very many people in this world can honestly say that but I can certainly understand it. It is a great industry doing wonderful things at a time when we all are being asked to be just a little more “green” and environmentally friendly.