A truckload of feathers is unloaded so it can be rendered.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of monthly stories dedicated to Farmers Union Industries and its seven businsses. Look for a new story each month!

To feed 326 million Americans, nearly 100 billion pounds of meat were processed in 2017, according to the Meat Institute.

When that meat heads to the grocery store, what happens to the inedible by-products? That’s where Minnesota-based Central Bi-Products comes in, with its three rendering facilities in Redwood Falls, Minn., Long Prairie, Minn., and Estherville, Iowa.

Central Bi-Products is the original of Farmers Union Industries’ seven businesses. Farmers Union Industries is owned by Farmers Union Enterprises, which is made up of Minnesota Farmers Union, Montana Farmers Union, North Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Farmers Union and Wisconsin Farmers Union.

Farmers Union Industries CEO Dan Hildebrandt said Central Bi-Products converts inedible (offal, bones, blood and feathers) into high quality meals and feeding fats.

“We collect these inedible (by-products) from animal/poultry harvest facilities and fallen livestock from producers,” Hildebrandt said. 

It’s not something that comes across the minds of consumers, but Central Bi-Products is ensuring that every part of the animal is used, not just the meat. It even processes feathers from poultry.

“Renderers are the oldest recyclers,” Hildebrandt said. “We hydrolyze poultry feather using temperature, pressure and time to break it down into a meal.”

 Central Bi-Products processes over 155 million pounds of inedible by-products from harvest facilities monthly and over 1.8 billion annually.

“It’s a lot of truckloads everyday,” Hildebrandt said. “Most people would say Central Bi-Products isn’t really that glamorous because of the products we work with, but these inedibles are converted into high quality feed ingredients. These ingredients are in high demand from feed producers, pet food and biodiesel manufacturers throughout the country.”

And what would be the environmental impact if Central Bi-Products wasn’t there to take those inedible by-products? A lot more space needed in local landfills, Hildebrandt said. Six million pounds of inedible by-products originate from North Dakota, annually.

 Hildebrandt said rendering is a great option. It’s a major accomplishment in itself to convert, “guts into gold.”

Hildebrandt said the business continues to modernize, helping to meet customers’ requirements.

“I’ve been around this for 40 years, and just to see the growth that’s happened is enormous,” Hildebrandt said. “Technology, computerization and the ability to monitor all steps of the process insuring we sell what we offer.”

To learn more, visit centralbi.com. To learn more about Farmers Union Industries and its commitment to family farms, visit fuillc.com.

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU