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The Dark Side of Recycling
Roger Biduk – The rendering plant floor is piled high with raw product, thousands of dead cats, dogs; pigs, rats, raccoons, skunks and millions of maggots.
“My visit to a rendering plant in California”, says Roger Biduk ” was nothing short of horrific. Tens of tons of dead cats, dogs, roadkill and zoo animals going through a chipper and then dumped in the same pot to be boiled. Workers laughed at me when I said these “ingredients” are illegal to be put in pet foods. Think of this when you see anonymously-named ingredients such as meat meal, animal fat, meat and bone meal or animal digest on the ingredient list of the pet food you’re feeding to your loving cat/dog.”
In February 1990, the San Francisco Chronicle carried a macabre two-part story detailing how stray dogs, cats and pound animals are routinely rounded up by meat renderers and ground up into pet food. According to the researcher who brought the information to the Chronicle, the paper buried the story and deleted many of the charges he had documented. A report he worked on for ABC television’s 20-20 was similarly watered down. In exasperation, he sent the story to Earth Island Journal. NEXUS has been asked to withhold the name of the author/researcher, who has been forced to flee San Francisco with his wife and go into hiding as a result of the threats made against his well-being. Ed.]
The rendering plant floor is piled high with “raw product”: thousands of dead dogs and cats; heads and hooves from cattle, sheep, pigs and horses; whole skunks; rats and raccoons all waiting to be processed. In the 90-degree heat, the piles of dead animals seem to have a life of their own as millions of maggots swarm over the carcasses.
Two bandana-masked men begin operating Bobcat mini-dozers, loading the “raw” into a 10-foot- deep stainless-steel pit. They are undocumented workers from Mexico, doing a dirty job. A giant auger-grinder at the bottom of the pit begins to turn. Popping bones and squeezing flesh are sounds from a nightmare you will never forget.
Rendering is the process of cooking raw animal material to remove the moisture and fat. The rendering plant works like a giant kitchen. The cooker, or “chef”, blends the raw product in order to maintain a certain ratio between the carcasses of pets, livestock, poultry waste and supermarket rejects.
Once the mass is cut into small pieces, it is transported to another auger for fine shredding. It is then cooked at 280 degrees for one hour. The continuous batch cooking process goes on non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week as meat is melted away from bones in the hot ‘soup’. During this cooking process, the ‘soup’ produces a fat of yellow grease or tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The cooked meat and bone are sent to a hammermill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Shaker screens sift out excess hair and large bone chips. Once the batch is finished, all that is left is yellow grease, meat and bone meal.
The last public account of a rendering plant was provided by journalist Van Smith of the Baltimore City Paper in 1995. His article, ‘What’s Cookin’?, shocked Baltimore and the world. Smith’s Rendering Facility story provided photos of barrels full of dead dogs and cats waiting to be rendered, and a Valley Proteins employee with a hand full of meat and bone meal, one of the end products from the rendering process. The article is still available on the Baltimore City Paper website.
“Pet owners have to feed their cats and dogs foods that contain human-grade ingredients, not euthanized cats and dogs,” says Roger Biduk.