Crook accepts carcasses after shutdown of plant

Tallow firm’s closing prompts short-term fix

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: October 14. 2006 5:00AM PST

In the wake of Redmond Tallow Co.’s announcement that it will close at the end of the month, county and federal officials have been scrambling to find a stopgap solution for disposing of animal byproducts and carcasses in Crook County.

The Crook County Landfill has started accepting a greater volume of animal carcasses, and dug a new pit this week to accommodate the waste and to comply with environmental regulations.

Redmond Tallow, the last meat rendering facility in the state, handled farm animal remains, restaurant grease and meat scraps, boiling them down to make a substance used in animal food.

Through this process, the company recycled products that could now end up in the landfill.

Because of the closure, Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper, head of the county commission, said the landfill applied to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for permission to bury carcasses.

While the landfill is already taking drop-offs, the DEQ is still reviewing the wording of guidelines it will impose in dealing with these remains, such as covering them over immediately and digging a special pit away from the other garbage.

Cooper said he has already heard reports of animal carcasses being dumped in a state gravel pit on Juniper Canyon Road south of Prineville. Alan Keller, manager of the Crook County Landfill, said the number of dead animals being dropped off has started to rise. The landfill does not provide any pickup service and charges $25 per ton for in-county customers and $35 per ton for out-of-county customers.

“We didn’t really take them before, it was just kind of a farmer-type deal that we’d take them if the farmer had no place to go with them, but now it’s the butcher plants and everyone’s bringing them,” Keller said.

Chad Centola, operations manager for the Deschutes County Landfill, said his facility does not plan to expand its services to accept animal carcasses.

“We will make some allowances and take it on a case-by-case basis with individuals, (but) we’re really not interested in going into any larger scale,” Centola said. “This whole situation with Redmond Tallow has kind of put us in a crisis mode.”

Cooper called the use of the Crook County Landfill for this purpose a temporary measure for the next year, saying that he is working on finding a permanent solution – ideally the opening of a new tallow plant in the area. He said he has heard a great deal of concern since the announcement that Redmond Tallow will close.

“Basically what people are looking for is, ‘What do I do now?’ and what you do for now is you arrange for transport to the landfill while we look for an alternate solution, and I’m pretty confident that we’ll find an alternate solution sometime in the next year,” he said.

In addition to the new landfill alternative, farmers and butchers in the area will still have some options for dead animal pickup. Martha Cacho, who owned Redmond Tallow Co. for more than 35 years, said that her son will operate a pickup service for large animal carcasses called Carl’s Dead Stock Removal. Those animals will be transported to a rendering plant in Tacoma, Wash.

Cacho said there has been a rendering plant in the same spot on O’Neil Highway in Redmond for 75 years. One of the reasons she and her family decided to close the company was that neighbors complained about the smell from the rendering process.

“When we bought the place here it was no houses hardly around, a few dairies, no residential, and then they built around me,” she said. “It’s not a hazardous odor, it’s more of an inconvenient odor that they don’t like but it’s not bad for your health.”

There are, however, potential environmental risks with the plant closed, according to Susan Christensen, solid waste technical assistant at the Bend office of the DEQ. If farmers leave dead animals on their property or bury them near a water source, the water could become contaminated. In addition, the carcass could attract coyotes and rodents.

“We would like to have another solution besides the landfilling as an option,” Christensen said. “There are more efficient ways to manage the waste and there are large volumes of the waste from the home rancher or ranchers large and small, butcher facilities, grocery stores. And managing it through the rendering option seemed to be the best option.”

Shane Quimby, the owner of the meat-cutting business Independent Market in Prineville, said he is worried that costs could rise as he has to transport animal products to the landfill himself or send them out of state for processing.

“It’s an inconvenience because now I have to haul all my own stuff and take time away from my business to go to the dump two or three times a week,” Quimby said. “It’s going to put places like me and the rest of the custom-cutting businesses kind of out on a limb.”

Restaurants and grocery stores may have an easier time disposing of leftover grease as there is a growing market for animal grease to be used as a biodiesel fuel.

Cooper, of the Crook County Court, said he has already heard from some individuals interested in opening another rendering plant, but he put the chances of a new facility opening up at “50-50.”

“Any time you have a successful business that exits the market, you have other people interested in closing that gap,” Cooper said. “If you had to go out on a list of 100 businesses that are most desirable to operate, I don’t think a tallow plant would be in your top 100 … it’s a tough business.”

Cooper said that many large commercial meat producers have rendering facilities on site, but hobby farmers – like many of those in Crook County – have to find outside means of disposal.

“The one that’s caught in the gap is the small farmer that owns a little hobby farm and has one or two animals that need to be disposed,” he said. “We’re just going through the process of working on a solution both short term and long term. I think we’ve got it nailed down for the short term we’re still working with people on the long term.”

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