Workshop explores new technologies to help meat industry cut waste

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has brought scientists and meat processors together at a special event designed to bring the latest technology to bear on increasing profitability and reducing environmental impact.

The workshop, held on March 15 in partnership with the IBERS-led BEACON Biorefining Centre of Excellence at Aberystwyth University, delegates discussed the use of new technology to turn animal by-products into useful commodities that could be sold.

They also heard from companies which had achieved success in reducing their use of water and energy, and discussed the latest Anaerobic Digestion technology which turns organic waste into electricity, fuels and other saleable commodities.

A wide range of Welsh processors were represented at the conference, including both large and small abattoirs. The speakers included world-leading experts on waste reduction and the extracting value from by-products, including applied biochemist Dr. David Bryant, waste and manufacturing specialist Chris Morris, and anaerobic digestion expert Prof. Sandra Esteves.

“This workshop was extremely useful in bringing together academic researchers with businesses from the Welsh red meat supply chain,” explained HCC Supply Chain Development Executive Dr. Eleri Price.

“A key statistic is that a typical 650kg beef animal will produce 345kg of meat, so the challenge is how best to use the rest of the carcase, especially as the market for skins and hides is less profitable than it used to be” she said. “Doing this successfully is a win-win for the industry – turning animal by-products into useful commodities helps profitability, and also reduces waste.”

“The sector is already applying very good practice in minimising its inputs and environmental impact,” said Eleri. “But with technology moving on all the time, there are emerging ways in which by-products can be used.”

She said, “It was fascinating to hear about BEACON’s work in helping companies to extract valuable commodities that can be used in a wide variety of contexts, from renewable energy to pharmaceuticals. Many of the processors shared interesting data on how they reduced waste and utilised by-products, and emerging anaerobic digestion technology is clearly an avenue to be looked at.”

The workshop is part of HCC’s remit to develop the whole supply chain, to ensure a more profitable and sustainable red meat industry and meeting the challenge of climate change.