A Rare Look Inside a Rendering Plant; Shocking First Hand Account

Rarely do we get a first-hand account of the secret world behind the walls of rendering plants where animal feed and pet food ingredients are made, giving us a glimpse inside the dark world of animal waste recycling (or rendering) to see why the ingredients made there could be poisoning American pets.

Little is known about the inner workings of a rendering plant, and probably most would rather not know. Hidden in a shroud of secrecy, the industry which has existed for over a century has kept the truth hidden from unsuspecting consumers.

The frightening specter of warehouses filled with tons of waste products (dead livestock) from the industrial farming, slaughter-house waste, roadkill, and euthanized pets all cooked together contrast the glossy images of fresh ingredients that dress pet food packages.

It’s important that you know what goes on behind the walls of a rendering plant because it could make the difference between life and death for your pet.

The following is one man’s harrowing experience while working at a rendering plant told pet food safety advocate, Susan Thixton at Truth About Pet Food:

Pet Food and Rendering Plants

by Jerry E.

First let me introduce myself. I am a retired Certified Pest Control Operator. I was certified in three states. I have an associate degree in entomology, food grade warehouse management, and several courses in sanitation. I serviced and advised large national meatpacking plants, other food manufacturing plants, feed mills, and pet food plants. I worked closely with the USDA inspectors and quality control departments of several plants including the pet food plants. The largest pet food plant manufactured pet food for 65 different companies and took up a majority of my time the last few years of my business.

My first experience with rendering plants were those that were in the tail end of the meatpacking plants. They were good clean rendering plants, if there is such a thing. The only thing they rendered was the waste from the cattle they processed. There was never any outside product brought in. The rendering plant was separated from the main plant by a concrete wall. The components to be rendered were augured in from the main plant and ground into small pieces, then put in a cooker and heated at 280 degrees for approximately an hour, usually a little more. The cooking eliminated the moisture, and then the product was run through a screening process that separated the product into bone meal, protein meal and larger bone fragments and fat. Very little of this product went to pet food manufactures.

My first experience with an independent rendering plant that rendered product for pet food was totally shocking. I suppose I was partially prepared for it by the meatpacking plants, but this was still shocking. At any rate the local plant called me because they were expecting a corporate representative to come in the following month, and they had a horrendous rat problem. They wanted to show corporate that they had the problem under control. I am going to try to remember this plant in detail to give you an idea of what goes into our pet foods. That is not to say that they are all this way, but this is a general example that I ran into more often than I would have expected.

The plant was out in the middle of an open field and except for a 15 foot parameter around the building the weeds were waist to neck high. I entered the plant on a dirt drive that went up to a concrete parking slab in the front of the building; in front of the office door an a large overhead door. The dirt drive went around one side of the building to the back where there was a concrete dump area with an overhead door going into the building. The concrete slab was sloped away from the building with a curb on both sides so that they could wash down the area. This is where the dead animals, parts and pieces of animals and other things to be rendered or processed were dumped. Between the dirt drive area and the building was junk parts and equipment piled up that obviously housed a large colony of rats as you could see their trails in and out of the junk piles. The other dumping ground for machine parts, etc. out back was also full of rats. The concrete pad in the back where the trucks dumped their loads had rat holes lining the curb that ran along the sides.

As you might imagine, this area was loaded with flies; the piles of products were alive with maggots. It made it look like the whole pile of product was alive and moving. After the loads were dumped they were picked up by a bobcat (a miniature loader with a scoop on the front) and hauled inside the plant to the rendering pit. The plant had three undocumented workers doing the labor, including running the bobcat. The pit was a concrete hole with sloped sides that was about 8 to 10 feet deep and it had four sides that were about 7 feet long. There was a small seem 1 inch wide about 4 feet down that ran all the way around the pit. This seem, as the ones in the corners, had several rat holes in them, so rats were living in the rendering pit.

At the bottom of the pit was an auger grinder that ground the product and augured it out to a bin to be cooked. The cooker was in the back corner of the plant that took up about one third of the building. After it was cooked, it was pressed to eliminate the remaining moisture. Then it was separated it into different products and shipped off to one of their other plants to be further processed and packaged. I asked where the finish products were sent to; they said it was shipped to several different pet food plants. It seems the corporation had several rendering plants and contracts with numerous pet food plants. Not only were dead animals that died who knows how being rendered, but also live rats, a lot of rat droppings plus all the dirt and concrete fragments that were removed from the rat holes in the pit and piles of maggots. But ‘that was ok’ because it was just going for pet food. What they were concerned about was the constant maintenance that the rats were causing by digging holes in the concrete and chewing through hoses and electric lines.

Maintenance expenses were getting too high and something had to be done. That is why they called me. It took a couple of months, and several buckets of dead rats, but I did take care of their rat problem. In the mean time I found out where a lot of the dead animals and other scraps and pieces came from. There were dead cows, pigs, horses, chickens, various road kill, packaged meat from local supermarkets and waste from restaurants and fast food places.

The most sickening thing that I saw was trucks that came from chicken farms; I call them chicken prisons that were supposedly full of dead chickens. When they dumped, 90% of the chickens were dead, however there was always a few that were still alive, if you could call that alive. They were mostly featherless and staggering around obviously sick and dying. They picked them up and threw them into the pit alive to be ground up with the rest of the dump. Most of the cattle from feed lots and farmers had plastic ear tags impregnated with Dursban or other insecticides that were placed there to ward off flies. These tags were not removed, they were ground up with the cattle and the plastic and Styrofoam containers that spoiled and rotten meat from the supermarkets came in.
When I asked about the ear tags and the plastic and Styrofoam they said that they could not afford to pay someone to remove them or un-package the spoiled meats from the supermarkets. “Besides, they would be eliminated from the end product through the rendering process.”

The cattle from the feed lots were full of antibiotics and hormones; they are given these antibiotics and hormones in the feed that they ate. They are added at the feed mill in the feed lots. Feed lots keep records of such additives for the government inspectors that never show up, or if they do it would only be about once a year. If for some reason the cattle contract some illness in spite of the added antibiotics they receive more antibiotics from the veterinarians that work for the feed lot. If the cattle die even after all of that, they go to the rendering plant. And guess what! The rendering plant operators don’t care why they died of or what kind of drugs were pumped into them.

“After all, it is just going into pet food, and some of it will be sold to feed mills and go into cattle feed or other feed. People won’t be eating it.” Fact of the mater is that people do end up eating it too. Poorer people that are barely getting by will buy canned dog food to eat because it is cheap. That bit of information came from the quality control department of a nationally known pet food manufacture that insisted that their canned product be fit for human consumption. Of course theirs was not a cheaper brand.

The point of this is that when you see meat by-products listed on the label of your pet food, this could be what you could be feeding your pet. So when you see this on the label I would encourage you to think twice about purchasing the product.


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Although the author does not mention the name of the rendering plant, we can assume that it is an independent rendering plant where controls are seldom in place. What he describes is not only plausible but very likely completely accurate due to similar accounts of the inner workings of rendering plants that have emerged over the years frightening consumers.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (26) Write a comment

  1. I lived near a small operation rendering plant. I had to have a calf put down because it got gangrene in it’s knees. The vet told me to tell the guy from the plant not to put it in the dog food because it had been euthanized. When he came to pick up the calf and I told him, he said, We don’t care. …………..peggy


  2. If it wasn’t for the rendering plants, the whole world would be a garbage dump of magot decay……..want to see that? Not Me….also think of the people that work there…..WAKE UP GOODIES…..


    • If we weren’t mass producing meat products, there wouldn’t be such a large amount of sick, over drugged dead Animals. Let’s go back to “farming” grass feed beef/pork. I eat meat, but I have a farmer I purchase my meat from because I try not to eat or feed my family (dogs in cluded) Mass produced meats from the factory that ends up in the grocery store. I feel better knowing my hamburger came from one grass fed cow rather then a mix of 20 cows. There has got to be a better and safer way to render meat products for pet food that won’t poison our fur family members. For the amount of profits made on pet food alone, they should be be able to invest in stronger restrictions. I will not feed my dogs kibble for just this reason. Pet food manufacturers only care about making money not my pets!!!


      • IF WE ALL ATE AT HOME, AND GOT RID OF all of the fast food joints, and had our own butcher, and had our own plot, and tended our own gardens, etc etc etc…this world would be a utopia. Overpopulation is the root and greed. We need better humans not more humans. I am ashamed to be human, and american. I respect animals so much more than 99 % of the people that I know. I wish pets did not need meat to live. The carnivores and obligate carnivores need meats, to thrive. But, it is all so out of hand, so out of proportion.


    • Food waste is a huge issue on this planet. What a crime to complain about too large a portion, and toss it out. I compost all food waste and I try to use less. less is more.


  3. Pingback: FIDOGATE - Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium Found In Popular Pet Foods - America Out Loud

  4. We operate a feedlot. It is ILLEGAL to feed antibiotics to beef cattle, in their feed. It would also be ridiculously expensive and unnecessary. They are only given antibiotics if they indeed have a bacterial infection, and then have to be quarantined until the antibiotic is out of their system. They are not allowed to be sold to slaughter, with any antibiotic in their system. We HAVE TO remove ear tags from our dead cattle, or the rendering truck will NOT pick them up. That’s all I will disagree on. Rendered meat serves its purpose. Not saying every facility is run the way it should, but most people in the industry of feeding people and animals, do so with integrity and ethic.


    • I am pleased to hear that your feedlot is run with integrity and ethics. My concern is about the dead animal haulers and independent rendering operations which may or may not be run with the same ethics as your operation. They are not bound by any legal or moral obligation to remove tags, test for illegal residues or indeed even to process animals that have died by slaughter. Many of the animals they routinely process have died in the field, and were too ill to be admitted to slaughter. Indeed the inedible parts condemned by the USDA are legally allowed t be rendered and turned into animal meal which can then be sold to make animal feed.


  5. This is also an eye opener for Muslims and vegans as well as vegetarians. These groups do not eat meat or pork.
    Much to your demise…..in some beauty products…….you are definitely WEARING IT.
    Always do your homework and check what companies are STILL US ING animals in their products. A lot of road kill animals are used in these products as well..that are deceased.


  6. This is an eye opener for sure! It proves that our pets are dying with tumors and cancers and allergies because they are ingesting garbage in these so called pet foods! It’s all about money and it seems to me vets know this is going on but let’s face it, sick animals are their cash cow! In years gone by, people always fed their dogs left over table scraps and we never heard about all these cancerous tumors and allergies! I’m so thankful for people who are willing to speak the truth and inform the unsuspecting public of these atrocities!


    • I pray that everyone will read the book “Dead Pets Don’t Lie “, or watch “Skyway TV. You can see the show on FacebooK or CTN. Those horrible rendering plants also use EUTHANIZED PETS! These go into peoples food, cosmetics, ect . Grocery stores sell outdated meats, styrofome wrapped in plastic to rendering plants.There is NO WAY to eliminate the poison in euthanized pets. Humans & pets suffer from diseases by using the products. PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH, & if. Possible, watch “Skyway TV “.


      • at least the pets are dead. These downer cows, 1/2 alive chickens and living dying animals are all tossed into the giant blender. What on earth is the matter with these people? I feel sick now each time i feed my pets. sick and horrified for the magnificent animals who suffer at the hands of cruel humans.


        • Dogs do well on plant based food. I had 2 Chihuahuas, one lived to14 and the other 14.5. Both were plant-based. I have another Chi now and I also feed him llant based kibble. I always put a bit of his favorite things just for variety. Carrots, broccoli, apple, banana…


  7. Never again will I buy dog food. From now on my dogs will eat Bones and RAw Foods or my home cooked dog recieps. I know for sure what I give them will be much healthier than what I could buy. I am reasearching everything I can to find out how I can give them the best diet! Thank you for this article.



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