A reporter who hails from Fayetteville, North Carolina describes in a recent editorial the decidedly putrid stench that wafts from a local dog food plant causing him to wonder, “what we’re feeding dogs”.
While reading his disturbing account of his experience of working and living in proximity to the dog food plant, I felt sick. But not a sick as I felt when I found out the name of the plant: Valley Proteins.
Valley Proteins, for the uninitiated, is what’s known in the industry as a renderer. A rendering plant is where all the discards, the waste, the diseased parts of animals unfit for human consumption is ground up and boiled into an unrecognizable brown mixture known as meat by-products.
There is stink, and then there is stink
Rendering plants, while notoriously secretive, are shrouded in mystery where the only clue to what goes on inside a plant is the puke inducing stench of decaying flesh emanating from their operations, “there is stink, and there is stink,” writes the reporter, “There is stink you can live with, and there is stink that makes every breath a chore”.
Not uncommon in the rendering industry is the surrounding neighborhood complaints from those unfortunate to have to work or live within the vicinity of a rendering plant. It is for this objectionable industry by-product, the smell, that most rendering plants are far from highly populated areas and in some of the poorest neighborhoods.
J.J. and his half a billion bucks
J.J. Smith, CEO of Valley Proteins, owner of the third largest privately owned rendering business in the U.S. makes some serious cash by turning meat guts into gold, grossed $500 million dollars last year. The rendering industry – which turns dead animals and their byproducts into liquid grease and protein-packed dry powder is a virtual cash machine.
As J.J.’s pappy used to say, “My dad always told me it was most profitable to be in a business most people do not want to be associated with.” In fact, he boasts, “I will give you $5 million and five years and see if you can get one built within eight miles of your house. I don’t think you can.” J.J. summed it up this way: “Do you know anyone who wants a rendering plant near their home?”
J.J., who drives a custom BMW and flies to work on a Lear jet, sheepishly admits to the dark side of the rendering industry: recycling dead pets and road-kill. But, he hastens to add, it is “a very small part of the business that we don’t like to advertise” in a Baltimore City Paper newspaper article that effectively blew the lid off the rendering industry titled, “Meltdown: What Happens to Dead Animals at Baltimore’s Only Rendering Plant“.
According to City Paper, Valley Proteins “sells inedible animal parts and rendered material to Alpo, Heinz and Ralston-Purina”. Valley Proteins insists that it does not sell “dead pet by-products” to pet food firms since “they are all very sensitive to the recycled pet potential”. The question remains: Who does buy their dead pet by-products?
A friend told me of his experience inside a rendering plant. After his horse died he took it to a rendering plant where upon his arrival was dismayed to find all the rendering plant employees dressed for a celebration of some kind. The men not wanting to soil their clothes told my friend how to run the loader to pick up his cargo and dump it on the “pile” inside.
The moment he stepped foot inside he was assaulted with a sight he will never forget: What lay before him was a mountain of body parts, the remnants of what were once sentient beings piled over one story high. From the overwhelming stench he guessed the pile had been accumulating for some time. Horrified, he ran from the building, unable to complete the task.
The five worst ingredients
Next time you are shopping for pet food just know that any ingredient in which the species is not named and only referred to as ‘animal’ means that it came from a rendering plant. They cannot name the species because all the animals, whether they include pets or road kill, are turned into a indistinguishable mass known as ‘meat and bone meal’, ‘animal fat’, ‘animal digest’, ‘animal by-products’ and ‘animal protein’. Ask yourself — when you look at the colorful packaging labelled with words such as ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’, the ads that picture sumptuous grilled chicken, juicy cuts of meat, brightly colored fruit and vegetables — is it truth in advertising or is it deception?