ReInvention Lessons From Dead Animal Processors

Last month I spoke to the National Renderers Association about succeeding in a rapidly changing marketplace.  Evolution is key to prospering in any industry because, lets face it, eventually things change and you’re left behind.  

If you don’t know what renderers do, they’re an important (although mostly unknown) aspect of the food and feed chain.  They process every part of livestock you and I don’t eat into usable by-products — an estimated 55 billion pounds of poultry scraps and the remains of 150 million livestock animals such as steers and pigs.  Bones, gristle, feathers, fat….they handle it all.  Be happy they do, otherwise the landfills would be full.   

This might not be appetizing dinner conversation, but if you eat meat, drink milk, or scramble eggs, you need these people.  If you wear leather or lipstick, use soap or shampoo, you’re using their goods.  Renderers also pick up millions of gallons of spent cooking oil from restaurants and turn it into biodiesel.

This industry was at the forefront of recycling.  They take waste nobody wants, that most people don’t even want to see, touch, or smell, and turn it into something of value.  

We All Need to ReInvent
As I commonly point out, if the only thing constant is change, why would you be an exception?  You’re not.  No business is immune to the forces of disruption.   

Successful rendering requires two things:  dead animal parts and a consumer for all the items those parts become.  What trends in the marketplace could alter either of those needs? 

Vegetarianism Won’t Kill Rendering
Only 2% of humans are voluntarily vegetarian.  A fraction of a percent are full blown vegans.  Those numbers haven’t moved despite the cause groups’ shocking PR methods.  Humans are omnivorous protein cravers by nature.  Which means there’ll be animal carcasses.  

Technology and Regulation
34% of rendered product goes to biodiesel.  This was a revolutionary development just a couple decades ago — making fuel from fryer grease.  Only problem: fossil fuels appear to have a limited future.  And it’s not, as we’ve been told since childhood, due to us exhausting Earth’s oil reserves.  France and Britain have both outlawed internal combustion vehicles starting in 2040.  Volvo will cease manufacturing fossil fuel -powered cars in 2019.  Tesla, Prius, Google’s Waymo…..several companies are working on electric buses.   The future of gas and diesel appears limited.  

Consumer Preference
By- product that doesn’t end up as makeup, shampoo, or manufactured goods becomes animal feed.  This will continue to be rendering’s biggest market.  But they must wean themselves off livestock feed revenue and double down on pet food.  Because the same forces that pushed for cage free eggs, group penned veal, and “no antibiotics ever” chicken will increasingly reject poultry fattened on poultry parts.  

Selling Environmentalism & Pet Love
My recommendation to the renderers: 

  1. Build on their image as recyclers.  We live in an environment of Environmentalism.  
  2. Speaking of the environment…. eliminating food waste is the next big issue in food and agriculture.  If you’re already picking up animal parts and fryer grease, is there a way to capitalize on processing discarded food?  
  3. Globally, dogs and cats are eating better than ever.  Pet food is a $75B market and growth is in double digits in emerging markets.  Hop on the gravy train to sell more Gravy Train!

The Lesson
No matter what business you’re in, disruptive forces are coming.  For rendering, the issues are technology (electric vehicles), regulation (bans on fossil fuel powered vehicles), and consumer preference (chicken feed made from chickens won’t fly forever).  Regardless of what business you’re in, you’re likely facing the same three issues.  See, you have a lot in common with the dead animal processors.

Damian Mason is a speaker, farm owner, business person, and ReInvention guy.  Find him at 


Angie Carel