Tyson to supply key biodiesel ingredient
Tyson Foods announced that it has established a
renewable energy division that will be up and running during 2007. Competitors
Perdue Farms Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. are making similar
Today, only a tiny fraction of US biodiesel
is made from chicken fat, but that seems likely
to change. Currently, the low-quality chicken fat from Tyson Foods Inc.
is shipped out of state to be rendered and used as a cheap ingredient in pet
food, soap and other products. The rising cost of soy bean oil, which accounts
for roughly 90% of all biodiesel fuel stock â€” is pushing the industry to exploit
cheap and plentiful animal fats.
Vernon Eidman, a professor of economics at
the University of Minnesota
who has extensively studied the
biofuels industry, estimates that within five years, the US will produce 1
billion gallons of biodiesel, and half of it will be made from animal fat; by
that time soy bean-based biodiesel will account for about 20% of the
Tyson is keeping the specifics of its renewable fuels division under tight
wraps, but Tyson Vice President Jeff Webster told a recent investment conference
the potential is clear. Tyson produces about 2.3 billion pounds of chicken fat
annually from its poultry plants. That's about 300 million gallons that could be
converted to fuel. Both Tyson and Perdue
are already experimenting with biodiesel and both
companies have started using biodiesel in their trucking fleets.
Animal fat also has its technical drawbacks. It clouds up at higher
temperatures than soy-based biodiesel, which means it might thicken up when used
in colder, northern cities, Eidman said. That might limit distribution to
southern areas where temperatures don't often drop below 4ÂºC (40ÂºF) or so. While
these factors kept animal fat in the background, the biodiesel industry has hit
a turning point.
Increasing demand for soy bean oil as a fuel and as a food is making the
price creep up. It now makes economic sense to invest in new technology to
process animal fat into usable form as a fuel stock.
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