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Power Idle Science

Factory To Make Biodiesel From Chicken Fat 207

telekon writes "Tyson foods has finally found a use for chicken fat and leftover food grease that isn't McNuggets — they've partnered with Syntroleum to produce biodiesel from the stuff. Their first plant in Louisiana will be able to churn out 75 million gallons a year. The question is, will the exhaust smell like fried chicken?"
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Factory To Make Biodiesel From Chicken Fat

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  • What else to say?

  • Better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by courteaudotbiz ( 1191083 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:12PM (#34161962) Homepage
    Well at least, if it smells fried chicken, it will be better than actual truck exhaust!
  • That's disgusting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hemi Rodner ( 570284 ) *

    I know that the exhaust of falafel oil does smell like falafel []. So it means that the exhaust of this "biodiesel" will probably smell like fried chicken.

    As a vegetarian, it really disgusts me... (I wonder, though, if this smell is better than regular diesel).

    PS: I am disappointed that the article is so short.

    • "I love the smell of napalm in the morning... The smell, you know that gasoline smell... Smells like, victory"

      Falafel is for wimps.

    • Old news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:51PM (#34162446) Homepage Journal

      As a vegetarian, it really disgusts me... (I wonder, though, if this smell is better than regular diesel).

      As an omnivore who's also a hunter, I'm glad that they're finding a green use for what would otherwise be a waste product.

      This is a kind-of 'old tech' come back in a new form. Animal fat used to be used to produce candles and lantern oil; so the idea of using it for power isn't a new one.

      BTW, this is old news; I first heard about this factory several years ago.

      MUCH better article []
      - Hmm... Looks like a new plant, and it'll also produce fuel for the B-52. Sweet.

      Ah, here's what I was remembering [] - light crude from turkey fats and other waste via thermal-depolymerization .Article dates from 2003.

    • Fried chicken is typically boiled in oil, typically canola or some other vegetable oil, and then salted and spiced. This is so you don't smell or taste the actual carcass.

      Biodiesel made from dead chickens will smell of dead chickens. If you want a clue what that smells like, try visiting a henhouse after Monseiur Reynard has called by. Then set it on fire.

    • "As a vegetarian, it really disgusts me..."

      Get a modern Diesel and you can fill it up with the same vegetable oil you use in your salads.

    • PS: I am disappointed that the article is so short.

      It's always scary when the Slashdot summary and the article are practically identical. Worse, the article just seems to be a reworded press release.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sjames ( 1099 )

      As a vegetarian, it really disgusts me... (I wonder, though, if this smell is better than regular diesel).

      Chicken or ancient lizard, them's your choices.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:16PM (#34162006)

    What was the previous use?
    My guess is they mixed it in with the chicken feed to fatten up the next batch. They'll need a new source of oil. Maybe corn oil?

    • by Dancindan84 ( 1056246 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:30PM (#34162150)

      Do not use for the other use!

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:30PM (#34162152) Journal
      One also wonders why they switched from the previous use... Where the expected higher oil prices and/or some sort of biofuel subsidy good enough to make it cost effective, or did feeding animals their own ground up con-specifics break some new health and sanitary regulation?

      I suppose they could also have just taken advantage of some improvement in refining technology to change the point of combustion. I'd suspect that a coal-fired plant wouldn't even notice some chicken fat mixed in with the coal; but that the price per ton paid for the fat would be unexciting; while, with the right refining technology, you could turn those same lipids into a vehicle fuel, which is rather more valuable per ton....
      • by vlm ( 69642 )

        or did feeding animals their own ground up con-specifics break some new health and sanitary regulation?

        You get around that by adding the ground up chicken parts to the cow feed, and the ground up cow parts to the chicken feed. Insert sheep (oops NZ joke) or whatever.

        • by dpilot ( 134227 )

          I seem to remember hearing this practice cited back when mad cow disease was all the rage. Oh, plus applying the same treatment to roadkill they found along the way.

    • by benjamindees ( 441808 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:41PM (#34162312) Homepage

      Unlike cattle, chickens are not "fattened up". Marbling is not a desirable feature in chicken meat. They get plenty of residual fats from the soybean meal that constitutes nearly half of typical feed. The chicken fat was probably used in pet food or cattle feed previously.

  • Yup (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:18PM (#34162032)

    From experience with homebrew biodiesel, the exhaust really does smell like the fat/oil used to produce it. My dad's truck smelled like french fries or chinese most of the time.

    • Re:Yup (Score:5, Funny)

      by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:50PM (#34162434) Journal

      From experience with homebrew biodiesel, the exhaust really does smell like the fat/oil used to produce it. My dad's truck smelled like french fries or Chinese most of the time.

      Ftfy, murderer.

      In related news, Tyson announced their entry into the crematorium market.

  • Life is going to be a lot harder for those poor vegetarians
    • by o'reor ( 581921 )

      Hell yeah ! Up your nostrils, veg'tarians !

      Oh, and how do we get that fat off those chickens ? The answer is : Grill, baby, grill !

    • Hopefully they won't actually be drinking it. If so they have more problems then just that.

  • by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:33PM (#34162198) Homepage Journal

    There was a plant owned by Renewable Environmental Solutions near Carthage, MO that would take leftovers from Tyson's chicken plants and turn it into various oils, including fuel. Problem was that the plant *stank* and the wind sometimes blew the odor into town, leading to many complaints and attempts to fix it.

    Eventually the state shut 'em down because they were unable to control the smell. Maybe this place in Louisiana is way out in the middle of nowhere, so they won't have to worry so much about the neighbors complaining.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Maybe this place in Louisiana is way out in the middle of nowhere, so they won't have to worry so much about the neighbors complaining.

      Have you ever smelled Louisiana? Not some kind of weird ethnic joke, but a comment on the unique bouquet of oil refineries and swamps?

    • Supposedly they were unable to conclusively link the odor to the plant - people complained about the smell even when the plant wasn't operating. The state suspension was only temporary and the plant operated afterward in face of more complaints. But despite having proven that the odors were not coming from their plant and spending millions on upgrading tech to deal with the potential odors the whole thing kinda went belly-up when the parent company declared bankruptcy.

      Basically the reported stench was pure

    • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:53PM (#34162484) Journal []

      The mysterious death of the chicken-fat car
      By: Timothy P. Carney
      Senior Examiner Columnist
      May 20, 2009

      As President Barack Obama unfurls his fuel-economy standards and Congress takes up global warming regulations, it’s useful to remember that what emerges from environmental policymaking is not necessarily what’s best for the planet, but instead what’s best for special interests.

      Consider the epic and somewhat bizarre struggle over clean fuels that ended last week. As usual, special interests were central to the drama. But the antagonists seemed right out of a Monty Python sendup of Washington politics: An oil company, hoping to profit from making trucks run on chicken fat, was thwarted by the soap industry’s lobby.

      The chicken-fat story is a cautionary tale about how environmental policy actually gets made.

      It began in 2005, when President George W. Bush signed an energy bill including a $1-per-gallon tax credit for “renewable diesel” fuel created through “thermal depolymerization.” Writer Rina Palta reported in the liberal American Prospect that Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., wrote the measure “to benefit a floundering company in his home district that produces boiler fuel from turkey offal, which did not qualify chemically as ‘biodiesel.’ ”

      At the time, Congress was eagerly providing subsidies to turn plants and animals into fuel, so it didn’t seem farfetched to boost the cause of fowl entrails. But unintended consequences soon arrived, proving once again that the biggest companies usually find a way to profit from government intervention.

      In April 2007, the Internal Revenue Service ruled that Blunt’s tax credit had broader applications. Within two weeks, ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods saw that the IRS had opened the door for a joint venture to melt chicken, cow, and pig fat into diesel fuel. Conoco Chief Executive Officer James Mulva was honest about his unusual undertaking: “It’s not profitable without the $1 per gallon tax credit,” he said at a news conference.

      But this renewable fuel had enemies. First, Democrats didn’t like any subsidy that helped an oil company like Conoco. (Blunt, for his part, said he never wanted to help oil companies, and that the law should be changed.)

      Second, business lobbyists were also working to kill the subsidy for chicken fat. The obvious opponents were chicken fat’s competitors — the companies that turn vegetables into diesel fuel. The National Biodiesel Board, which spends nearly $1 million a year on lobbying, pushed hard to ensure the $1-per-gallon subsidy for clean diesel didn’t also apply to the Conoco-Tyson operation.

      But the issue of “renewable biodiesel” also turned up on the lobbying filings of the Dial Corporation and the Soap and Detergent Association. Just as ethanol subsidies have driven up the price of food, it turned out that fat-to-fuel subsidies boosted the cost of manufacturing soap, which is also made of animal fat. So Dial and the Soap and Detergent Association, displeased that Tyson now had somewhere else to peddle its fat, also lobbied to kill the chicken-fat diesel subsidy.

      While their own interests were obvious, the soap and biodiesel lobbies argued that chicken-fat diesel was not good for the environment. But the Environmental Protection Agency ruled this month that “biodiesel or renewable diesel made from animal fat or used cooking oil results in an 80 percent reduction from carbon emissions versus petroleum diesel,” according to Darling International, a company that deals in animal-fat diesel. Darling added in its first-quarter 2009 report, “That is the highest level of carbon reduction available

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jmichaelg ( 148257 )
      The problem wasn't the stink. It was the economics. From the get go, they were relying on subsidies [] to make the process pay. These kind of businesses sprout up whenever there are government subsidies to be had or fuel prices spike. Their prospectuses will have a phrase that states that the company isn't profitable if you take away the subsidies or it will be profitable if the price of fuel rises faster than the rate of inflation. Had Renewable really developed a viable technology that delivered fuel at $
  • Schmaltz (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sam Nitzberg ( 242911 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:36PM (#34162232)

    Schmaltzy !

    • Re:Schmaltz (Score:5, Informative)

      by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:45PM (#34162362) Journal

      Moderators need to find out what schmaltz [] is.

      • It's delicious is what it is. I remember growing up we would have it during Passover. Spread some of that rendered chicken fat on a piece of matzoh and sprinkle on a little salt. Delicious! (If you're thinking it sounds disgusting, it tastes kind of like a rich butter.) Yes, it is awful for you, but most things that taste really good are bad for you if you eat too much of them.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Dammit! You beat me to it!

      And mods, this is definitely NOT Off-topic, it should be modded "funny" if it's modded at all.

  • by fluor2 ( 242824 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:37PM (#34162266)

    We already know Men living in areas with polluted air may be more likely to develop lung cancer, according to scientists. [].

    So we thought this biofuel should be great. But now recent studies have found some evidence that indicates that biofuel is even worse for humans! Norwegian researchers have found this (published in a large norwegian magazine named technichal weekly).
    Read this article []. The findings are new, but disturbing for the future of biofuel.

    But hey, after all it's environment friendly. :)

    • by takowl ( 905807 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:52PM (#34163174)

      The findings are new, but disturbing for the future of biofuel.

      To put this in perspective, the newspaper article you link to describes some scientists who've done a computer simulation of burning mixtures including biodiesel (a particular type of biofuel), and predict that it will produce a greater amount of PAHs, which are known to cause cancer, than simulated pure fossil fuels. As far as I can see, they've not even burnt anything.

      Assuming real experiments match their simulation, the mixture will most likely be tweaked a bit--some chemical change, some additive, or something--to bring down the resulting amount of PAHs. We already drive around with catalytic converters bolted to our cars to clean up various pollutants. What you've described is a minor pothole in biofuel development, not the roadblock you seem to be implying. By far the greater challenge is how to devote the necessary land to grow biofuels while we simultaneously increase food production to feed a growing world population, and try to conserve land for nature.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )
      Plus might help solve the "aging population problem" that many developed countries seem so worried about :).

      That said, the great work by McD, Coca Cola, Frito-Lay, Philip Morris, Yum! Brands and friends towards solving this problem have so far been under appreciated...
  • Cholesterol (Score:5, Funny)

    by TVDinner ( 1067340 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:43PM (#34162330)
    Great, now I'll have to add Lipitor(tm) to my diesel tank so my car's fuel line doesn't get plaque build-up.
  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:44PM (#34162348) Journal

    When you're threatened by a stranger,
    When it looks like you will take a lickin', (cluk, cluk, cluk)
    There is someone waiting,
    Who will hurry up and rescue you,
    Just Call for Rendered Chicken! (cluk, ack!)

  • I read in a few places that I can't remember right now that it takes feeding an animal 26 calories to get 1 calorie of food out, by eating their meat. In other words you have to put more energy in than you get out. This is good for Tyson's if this is about waste they could not do anything else with. It isn't an alternative energy solution though. It isn't even an efficient way to get food.

    • People kind of have a taste for meat though. I don't think anyone is selling this as "the solution to oil dependence" or anything, but it *is* a way to recycle waste from a food production process that will occur anyways. Other than people liking short sound-bitey things I don't know why everyone has this need for there to be a single tech that solves all energy problems in the work.

      Combustible liquid fuels powering ICE-powered cars is the situation for the near future. Given that, anything that lets us

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by michael_cain ( 66650 )

        People kind of have a taste for meat though.

        Yep, in a calorie-sparse hunter-gatherer existence, a taste for meat, fat, and sugar— all with a very high calorie density— is a Good Thing. In a calorie-rich sedentary society, not so much.

    • Well, the 26 calories is probably as much of a guess as the other figures I've heard reported, anything from 2 to 100.

      The thing is, those calories, 26 if you like, can come from stuff that humans can't eat, like grass. Animals can (and do) graze on farmland that isn't really terribly suitable for growing crops. Without raising animals for meat, most of the people in the world would starve.

      • Factory farms feed cows other things than grass because it is more efficient ( cheaper and more profitable). Grass fed beef would be expensive beef beyond what many Americans can afford, let alone other people in the world.

        Marginal land, is just that marginal land. There isn't enough of it to raise enough life stock to feed a significant number of people.

        I don't mean any personal insult to you, but you last statement is egregiously wrong. Raising animals for meat actually contributes to world hunger.

        It t

        • It takes about 10 pounds of grain to get 1 pound of beef out.

          That's because cows don't eat grain. It is uneconomic to feed cows grain, which is why no-one in their right mind does it. It's okay to do it in the US, where you have masses of cheap, heavily-subsidised grain. That said, here in the UK we do often feed cows spent mash from breweries and distilleries, which is a great way of getting rid of something that would otherwise just rot and turn nasty. Spend mash dumped in the ground == stinky sour

  • I assume the submitter was joking, but chicken fat is also added to pet foods. I saw the chicken fat on ingredient labels at Costco. We just switched from a dog food that had corn in it, based on a friend's advice that a corn allergy is common in dogs. Wish we had known 6 years ago.
  • It's rather shocking that one company can actually *source* 75 million gallons of chicken fat per year in one country. How many billion chickens have to be slaughtered to make 75 million gallons of chicken fat?
    • Per USDA figures [], there were about 765 million chickens slaughtered in the US last year. The major share of the "fat" is probably the oil used to fry things. The US produces [] something over 12 million metric tons of fats and oils per year, about 70% of that vegetable oils. Back-of-the-envelope, 12 million metric tons of the stuff is on the order of 3 billion gallons.
    • As cited in another response [] to your post, it's about 3 billion chickens to make 75 million gallons of oil, at about 40 chickens per gallon. But that fat doesn't come from whole new chickens - it comes from fat from chickens already slaughtered. The fat is either a waste product currently "discarded" in landfills or holding tanks, or else possibly used in other applications not as valuable as the fuel oil product. My understanding is that the chicken industry, despite finding all kinds of uses for every par

  • Just so that everybody is clear, this is NOT better than burning fossil fuels in terms of CO2 released.

    All of that chicken fat would simply have been put into a land fill, thus acting as a CO2 sink (kind of like fossil fuels right?).

  • Vats of chicken fat (Score:5, Informative)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:56PM (#34163230)

    I have a friend who produces biodiesel semi-professionally (sells to local farmers to run their tractors and other farm equipment, the rest is unofficially sold to friends) and for a while he was using rendered chicken fat. The raw material stinks like hell, but the resulting biodiesel doesn't really smell like much of anything. Remember that the manufacture of biodiesel is a chemical process that changes the oil into something else. The chicken fat no longer exists at the end of the process. Any odor is due to particulate or a fraction of oil that wasn't completely converted.

    Generally all biodiesel smells the same unless it's been manufactured improperly. I've managed to get some in my mouth before (a siphoning error). It doesn't have much of a taste but it coats your mouth with a terrible film that is very hard to get rid of.

    One time I was over at the plant with my dog. She managed to find an open container of chicken fat and stuck her head in there. I don't know how much of it she ate (drank? gulped?) but you can imagine, if you dare to, what sort of things were coming out of the other end of the dog for several days afterward. Oh god... Oh, oh god.

  • That's .054% of the fuel the US uses in a year, but I guess it's a start.

  • Biodiesel For The Soul.
  • I'm not a vegetarian so not too worried about the air smelling like fried chicken, but I'll bet if that's all you could smell any time you walked outside you would get sick of it. I would be more concerned about the impact this would have on Tyson land use, run-off, and disease control (antibiotics). It's already pretty f#cked up.
  • cue the accordions and clarinets to play "If I was a rich man"

  • They're sacrificing chickens at the alter of biofuels.

    How deliciously accurate. They've admitted biofuel are a desperate, unsupportable hail mary to the Gods. --
  • Considering how badly poultry is handled (and killed) compared to cows and piggies, this means breeding huge batches of chickens, let them develop physical injuries while trapped in a small box with 1000 other chickens, share space with dead chickens no one is taking care of, and get killed while being skinned alive. Exactly the same as the "for food" poultry industry.
    I am no PETA guy, but the treatment of birds by farmers and laborers is remarkably cruel. From the designers of the cages (filthy and lacking

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"