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Cattle rendering firms gear up for new FDA rule

WORTHINGTON, Minn. (AP)--Cattle rendering businesses in southwestern Minnesota are getting ready for a new Food and Drug Administration rule aimed at preventing bovine spongiform encphalopathy from reaching the food supply.

Some say the rule, which takes effect in April, will lead to higher costs for beef and dairy producers who will be required to clearly mark animals that are 30 months of age or older.

Rendered cattle product ends up in numerous places--including livestock feed, dog food, cosmetics, soaps and hand creams. Beginning April 27, rendering facilities will be required to remove the brain and spinal cord of all cattle ages 30 months and older if they plan to use the dry material as a feed ingredient. If the brain and spinal cord are not removed, the renderers will need to find new uses for the material.

"We don't want to take any chances of (infected material) getting into a food source," said Angie Raatz, of the Pipestone County Soil and Water Conservation District and a member of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Rendering Study Group steering committee.

The FDA regulation is aimed at providing an added layer of protection against BSE, a brain disease that has been linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain. Scientists believe the human version of BSE is transmitted when people eat tainted beef. The United States has had no known human cases linked to U.S. beef.

Larry Risty, director of marketing for Central Bi-Products in Redwood Falls, said the company is building a new facility in Long Prairie to render restricted animals. Risty said the company is examining different ways to use the rendered product, from creating fertilizer and fuel to energy production.

"That's for the rendered dry material," Risty said. "The fats we can use in the facility, itself, as a fuel to run the boilers."

At this time, Risty said, it's not feasible to do the brain and spinal cord removal.

"Eventually, there may be equipment to make that work," he added.

Central Bi-Products will charge a per-animal fee for cattle that are either 30 months of age or older, or whose age cannot be verified.

Darling International's Blue Earth facility, which receives carcasses from Klarenbeek and Son Rendering in Luverne, already requires cattle producers to clearly mark animals.

Allen Klarenbeek is a contract hauler for Darling and services Rock, Nobles, Pipestone and Murray counties, as well as portions of Cottonwood and Jackson counties. He said he isn't currently planning to charge producers an extra fee for picking up restricted cattle.

Mark Myers, chief operating officer for Darling International's office in Des Moines, Iowa, said renderers have limited options if they aren't going to remove the brain and spinal cord from restricted carcasses.

"We can either not pick up cattle over 30 months or provide a service to the producer that we will haul them directly to the landfill," said Myers. "Specifically in Iowa (not picking up the animals) is not an option we're considering."

The age restriction rule on rendered animals has been a topic of food safety discussion for seven or eight years. But with no known human cases of BSE in the U.S., some renderers wonder if the rule is necessary.

"We haven't had a problem with cattle over 30 months in this country, and we haven't found a direct correlation," Risty said. "We have been under the impression that the present rules have been working pretty good."

At Central Bi-Products, the rule will mean additional documentation and extra fees. Beef and dairy producers will be required to sign a form stating that any animal over 30 months of age will be clearly marked--most likely with an orange paint stick mark on the forehead.

The extra fees would help offset costs of transportation to Long Prairie--which is about 100 miles from Redwood Falls.

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