Rendering The unsung hero of sustainability
by Anna D Wilkinson, Director of Communications, North American Renderers Association, USA
f you walk up to a stranger on the street and ask them what rendering is, you’ll probably get one of a few responses – ‘architectural or artistic rendering’ or ‘digital graphics rendering’, and for those wanting to get fancy, they might say it means to represent something in an artistic work (as in; ‘The sketch was rendered in charcoal’). But the responses you’ll barely ever get are ‘A highly sustainable and climate smart practice utilised in the agriculture industry,’ and ‘The original recycling’– yet both of these descriptions are 100 percent correct. In fact, those last two are also the most sustainable. The exception being if you’re rendering your sculpture out of recyclable material, in which case kudos; but unless you’re using billions of pounds of otherwise wasted material for that (rather large) sculpture, let’s talk about agricultural rendering – or as I like to call it: the unsung hero of sustainability.
What is rendering?
For clarity, agricultural rendering will be referred to as ‘rendering’ throughout this article. In short: rendering is recycling. Roughly 50 percent of an animal is considered inedible by North Americans. This leaves a lot of leftover material (i.e., ‘the meat we don’t eat’) that would end up as food waste were it not for rendering. Rendering reclaims this otherwise wasted material (like protein, bone, fat etc.), as well as used cooking oil (UCO) from restaurants, and safely and hygienically processes it into rendered material for use in new products – so nothing is wasted. This rendering process transforms and upcycles what would have been food waste into safe, clean, and valuable ingredients for countless new goods – saving landfill space, and recycling 99 percent of this unwanted material. These rendered ingredients are 64 | June 2022 - Milling and Grain
then used in the sustainable production of new goods like safe and nutritious pet food and animal feed, household and industrial products, biofuels, renewable diesel, and many more common items that we use or come into contact with every day. Rendered fat alone is used to safely produce a multitude of common items including candles, detergents, fabric softener, deodorant, shaving cream, perfume, crayons, paint, lubricant, plastics, waterproofing materials, cement, ceramics, chalk, matches, antifreeze, insulation, linoleum, textiles, soap, rubber items like tires, and even fireworks. Rendering also helps customers and consumers feel confident they’re making a sustainable choice when they purchase items made with this upcycled rendered material. Additionally, by rendering these otherwise wasted parts of an animal, we demonstrate respect and resourcefulness for the livestock that were raised with care by farmers, and respect for the animal itself. This is achieved by ensuring everything is used for a purpose – so no part of that animal goes to waste. This is of great ethical importance to me personally, and many others who choose to eat meat.
A brief history
The word render comes from the French verb rendre, meaning ‘to give back.’ This is an apt definition. ‘Rendering is Recycling’ isn’t just a catchy phrase - countless new goods are produced by using upcycled rendered material - so rendering really is (in the literal definition of the term) recycling. Another motto commonly used in our industry is that renderers are ‘The Original Recyclers,’ and this is not hyperbole - rendering has existed for centuries and is one of the oldest ‘recycling’ practices. At its start, rendering was used primarily for soap and candle making, mostly done in a kettle over an open fire. Further developments to the process in the 19th century enabled