Rendering Unto Renderers What Should Be Renderers’…

California renderers and collection centers must keep scrupulous records of transactions involving kitchen grease or face higher penalties under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The same foul, food-flecked yuck restaurants pour into special dumpsters and hire haulers to dispose of is now so high-priced, haulers pay restaurants for the privilege of collecting it.

That’s why renderers sought a law ensuring competitors in the lucrative field of grease prove they’re legit.

When inedible cooking grease is purified and the moisture removed, it becomes “yellow grease,” a commodity used in making biofuels as well as chicken and livestock feed.  

The burgeoning biofuel market – and the high price of gasoline and regular diesel – has driven the price for a gallon of yellow grease to $3.68 in 2011 making it nearly as valuable as liquid gold. Eleven years ago, the per-gallon price hovered around 66 cents.

Today, the roughly 2.5 billion pounds of yellow grease manufactured each year has a market value of nearly $1.1 billion. A gallon of used grease is roughly eight pounds.

Assemblywoman Alyson Huber

The bill – AB 2378 by Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, a Sacramento Democrat – boosts civil fines from $1,000 to $5,000 for not registering as a kitchen grease hauler and recording transactions properly with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Higher penalties help pay for the department’s enforcement arm which the state’s 44 renderers support as a way to protect their business from thieves.

Last year, renderers backed legislation to reimpose on themselves a lapsed $3,000 annual regulatory fee in an effort to help the state be more zealous in ferreting out more grease bandits.

Doug Hepper, chief of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Meat, Poultry and Egg Safety, told Capitol Weekly in an August 25, 2011 report that he received an email from a Northern California renderer who reported 2,700 thefts from May of 2010 through May 2011 of 5.1 million pounds of grease with a market value of $1.5 million.

“It’s rampant,” Hepper says of the thefts, adding that California has two full-time and two part-time inspectors on the trail of grease robbers.  He readily admits that isn’t enough manpower to rein in the number of thefts.

“We catch people mainly through leads. We simply don’t have the personnel to sit in alleys at night,” Hepper said.

There are more than 250 renderers nationwide.  Of California’s 44 renderers, 26 make their living exclusively from collecting and processing inedible kitchen grease.

The remaining 18 handle cooking grease too but they also do what renderers have been doing since the Middle Ages when the fat trimmings from butchers were used in candles and soaps.

Renders call themselves the “invisible industry” and, more recently, the “first green industry.”

With some justification.

Humans don’t eat about half of a cow, 45 percent of a hog and 40 percent of a chicken.

Renders cook those “spare” parts at a high temperature, remove any moisture and separate the remaining fat. The protein can be used for pet food and the fats for lubricants, paints, textiles, soaps, cosmetics and toothpaste.

Nationwide, each year renderers recycle some 54 billion pounds of leftover animal parts and grease that would otherwise be land filled, composted or find its way into the water supply.

And for every metric ton of CO2 produced by rendering plants, more than 7 metric tons are removed from the environment.

“Without rendering we’d be in serious trouble,” says Tom Cook, President and CEO of the National Renderers Association in Alexandria Virginia, noting that 54 billion pounds of waste would fill the Dallas Cowboys stadium 10,000 times. “That’s a lot of grease and inedible animal byproducts.”

Unlike in some states, it’s a crime to steal grease in California. First offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $10,000 fine or up to one year in county jail or both. If previously convicted, subsequent violations can be punished with state prison time of up to one year.  

Huber’s bill deals with the record keeping required by the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Failing to follow the department’s rules now is a $5,000 fine. Previously, it was a $1,000 fine.

The penalty for subsequent violations climbs from $10,000 to $15,000.



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