A Safe Solution for Slaughter Waste

They say you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but BC’s slaughter waste composting facilities are proving that you can make a sow’s ear into safe, high quality compost.

The final report from a project led by the BC Association of Abattoirs concludes that compost produced at all six of BC’s small-scale slaughter waste composting facilities are producing compost that meets the Ministry of Environment’s Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) Class A standard.

The project provided technical support and OMRR compliance training for operators of BC slaughter waste composting facilities.

It also included sampling and testing the compost for pathogen levels, the carbon to nitrogen ratio and trace element composition.

In the end, 101 of the 113 samples tested had non-detectable levels of pathogens, ten samples contained low levels of fecal coliform that were within the Class A standard, and the two samples that exceeded the Class A standard were contaminated from external sources.

“The pathogen results were far and above what I expected to find,” says Ruth MacDougall, the agrologist who conducted the study. “I expected to find instances where it would not meet our provincial Class A standards, and I didn’t.”

Regulations introduced following the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada put pressure on small abattoirs to find viable solutions for the disposal of waste tissues instead of paying to have it hauled to Alberta.

In BC, six facilities have been developed to process non-specified risk material waste from slaughterhouses.

“Having these facilities gives people who are remote and don’t have other disposal options a way to deal with [slaughter waste] onsite,” says McDougall. “It offers them a solution for most of their waste. Instead of just landfilling it, they are turning it into a useful, beneficial product.”

The value of composting goes beyond environmental sustainability for some operators.

“Composting has kept us in business,” says Dennis Gunter of Gunter Brothers Meat Company in Courtenay, one of the facilities that participated in the project.

“The difference between what we were paying [to have the waste hauled away] and what we pay to compost is more than our bottom line.”

Public concern about the safety of the compost facilities has surrounded the industry since the beginning, but operators lacked the research and data to support their case. This project not only provides the scientific data to support composting, it has helped operators improve their skills and understanding of what is required to produce compost that makes the grade.

“I hope it provides the public with some measure of confidence that these facilities are safe and run well, and are producing high quality compost that is safe for distribution,” says McDougall.

Funding: $41,434 provided through the Livestock Waste Tissue Initiative. (LWTI059)