Material flows in livestock product utilisation

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Defra commissioned MLC Consulting in 2007 to undertake a project whose objectives were to:

  • Review the scale of ‘waste’ in the Meat, Milk and Egg industries,

  • Review the reasons for this ‘waste’,

  • Review the possibilities for reducing this ‘waste’.

  • Estimate the effect of any proposed changes to reduce ‘waste’.

  • Assess the additional research and investment required to exploit any such proposed changes.


‘Waste’ in the context of the project, was defined as:

  • Any product produced as a result of the activities of the Meat, Milk and Egg Industries - that had either:

  1. No economic value, or in many cases a negative value, in that it had to be disposed of and this involves a cost of disposal; it may even result, in economics terms, in an additional externality cost, in that its disposal has an impact on the economy and society greater than the cost of disposal to the industry (e.g. the impact of its disposal may have an effect on the environment and in extreme cases be a cause of pollution).

  2. Very low economic value (e.g. particularly were the economic return for the raw or processed product compared to the cost of processing/disposal was such that its status as a good with economic value or as a pure waste product was marginal).

The study was not concerned with ‘farm waste’ and the ‘waste’ from such as unsold (past sell by date) of food at supermarkets, except where the waste disposal processes that deal with such product are linked to that of the processing sector.


  1. The study has reviewed the information available (from published literature and other available information) on the waste creation and disposal activities of the Meat, Milk and Egg industries. It has taken account of the economic and environmental issues and impacts, the effect of legislation (at a sectoral and industry level) and assessed the current state of knowledge as regard to ways to reduce the economic and environmental impact of waste, and tried to identify the barriers that may exist in preventing the take up of new ideas and processes (including the attitudes of consumers in certain areas).

2. In order to verify the information obtained from the review of available information, improve understanding (e.g. regarding the impact of legislation), gauge reactions to new techniques and processes, assess what is feasible and the barriers that prevent the take up and exploitation of ideas, contact was then made with:

    1. A representative group of companies within the key supply chain sectors in the meat, milk and egg industries

    1. Key waste disposal operatives and processing companies

    1. Experts within the key representative organisations (e.g. such as in the meat sector UKRA)

    1. Key experts in academia and research institutes to aid understanding of the issues.

3. The information obtained was then used to:

  1. Review the scale of the waste

Review the amount of waste produced by the Meat, Milk and Egg Industries, and how it is currently disposed of (e.g. as a product with no/negative economic value, and as product with a low economic value) and the cost of such disposal. Where relevant this was considered from the perspective of both major supply chain sectors and at end point disposal.

In order to have a common basis for the assessment of waste we have used the statistics from Defra Agriculture in the UK 2006 to provide the basic information on production and import/exports.

Common to the three industries is the issue of packaging waste (e.g. plastic used in vac-packing and over-wrap as well as normal and treated cardboard/paper).

  1. Review the reasons for this waste

Review the reason for the waste identified (e.g. is it a result of the process; is it product that is produced out of specification; is there no current use for the product), and investigate how and why reasons have changed over recent years, including the impact of legislation and where applicable the attitudes of consumers (e.g. to the consumption of edible offal).

  1. Review the possibilities for reducing this waste

Review the possibilities for reducing the economic and environmental impact of waste through either:

    • Decreasing the amount produced through improving techniques and efficiency (e.g. to changes in processes and specifications to reduce the amounts of waste produced – based on current knowledge and technology).

    • Increasing the exploitation of what is currently considered as waste at both the sectoral level and on the industry level, in both the domestic and export markets; consider the barriers to exploitation.

    • Better economic and environmental means of end point disposal for the remaining waste.

  1. Estimate the effect of any proposed changes to reduce waste

Estimate the effect that any changes proposed would have the on the economic and environmental footprint of each industry, taking into account the secondary economic and environmental impact of any such proposed change (e.g. ones that are only possible with greater energy use), including realistic targets for industry take-up.

  1. Assess the additional research and investment required

Consider the areas for further research that will help to reduce the economic and environmental impact of waste (e.g. in technical improvements to produce less, to overcome barriers to exploitation and to improve the end point disposal). Provide views as to the capability of identified UK institutions to undertake any proposed research, estimates of resource requirements and targets for research outcomes.



In order to verify the knowledge obtained from the review of available information, contact was made with a representative group of companies within the key ‘sectoral supply chains’ of the red meat and poultry industries, plus key waste processors and experts within their representative organisations (e.g. such as UKRA).

The main sectoral supply chains were defined as:

  1. Large abattoirs/processors supplying the large supermarkets and food service companies.

  2. Larger abattoirs supplying mainly the export or ethnic market (particularly in the sheep sector)

  3. Larger and medium sized abattoirs/processors supplying the residual domestic market (e.g. retail butchers, independent shops, caterers – frequently via secondary wholesalers and processors).

  4. Small abattoirs/cutting plants, many with own retail outlets

Structured interviews were carried out with the contacts in these sectors, either on a ‘face to face’ basis during site visits, or by telephone as necessary. Initial contacts

The initial round of contacts was with the following companies/organisations:

Red Meat and Poultry –sectors
Abattoir/wholesalers – 3 companies

  1. T Lang (Ashburton, Devon).

  2. R Agar (Ilkley, W Yorkshire.

  3. Paul Flatman (poultry)

Cutting plants/portion control – 2 companies

  1. B. Etherington (Scorrier, Cornwall).

  2. Randall Parker (HQ Towcester, Northamptonshire – Wholesale business plus large mid Wales abattoir; Andover, Hampshire – cutting plant/processor))

Large integrated abattoir/cutting/packing plants – 2 cattle and sheep specialist companies, 1 specialist pig company, 6 poultry companies.

  1. ABP (HQ Birmingham).

  2. Farmers Fresh (Kenilworth, Warwickshire)

  3. Bowes (Watton, Norfolk)

  4. Grampian (poultry)

  5. Bernard Matthews (poultry)

  6. Moy Park (poultry)

  7. Two Sisters (poultry)

  8. Faccenda (poultry)

  9. Cherry Valley (poultry)

Large meat manufacturing – 3 companies

    1. Midshire Foods (Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire)

    2. Geo Adams

    3. Wessex Foods

Waste disposal and secondary processing:

`Rendering - 2 companies

  1. Prosper De Mulder (PDM)

  2. John Pointon and Sons

Incinerator – 1 company

  1. J Lord (Grantham)

Bio plant – 2 companies

  1. Biogen (Bedford)

  2. Sustainable Bio-Systems (Kent)

Bio fuels

  1. Argent (Scotland)

Pet Food

    1. Pet Food Manufacturers Association

Others companies:

  1. Nestle Purina Pet food

  2. Pacific Proteins Additional contacts

It was clear following the round of ‘initial contacts’ with three of the larger companies interviewed (e.g. those supplying the major supermarkets and large food service sector companies), that although these large companies had certain common characteristics (e.g. a reliance on the renderers for much of their waste disposal), some new approaches were also being developed that were not identified in the literature review (e.g. such as new blood disposal techniques, use of tallow for bio-diesel).

The ability of these larger companies to invest in new processes, is a reflection of their ability to utilise the greater surplus of funds from the profits they can generate than is available to the smaller plants in the other chains. In addition new concerns about the environmental challenges they now face and the attitude of their customers are driving this activity, in addition to the need to reduce costs (e.g. the large supermarkets in looking to improve their competitive advantage are keen to work with suppliers that demonstrate green credentials).
As a result it was agreed with Defra that the range of the contacts be extended to cover more of the large companies in the red meat sector, including:
Cranswick Country Foods

Woodhead (Neerock)

Tulip (Dalehead)

Grampian (St Merryn, McIntosh Donald, Malton BF,)


RWM (Southern Counties)


Dawn (Highland Meats)

Dovecote Park

Chitty Wholesale Ltd


Linden Foods (NI) (Whitley Bay Meats)
(Note: those in brackets in the above group denote subsidiary abattoir/processors operating under different names)

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