Thursday, October 13, 2016

Are Thousands Of Ritually Slaughtered Chickens Being Turned Into... Biodiesel? 

Most Hasidic Jews I've spoken to in Brooklyn about kapparot, the annual pre-Yom Kippur chicken slaughter ritual, say the same thing about what happens to the meat: it goes to charity. Given the challenges of safely storing and transporting chicken carcasses for human consumption (and the rigorous requirements of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Acts), it seems safe to say that if you don't see some large refrigeration equipment at a kaporos event, the meat is probably not edible, or shouldn't be eaten. Indeed, at this year's large-scale events Monday evening on President Street at Kingston Avenue and on the Eastern Parkway service road, no refrigeration was apparent. Helpers for the ritual slaughterers could be seen tossing the birds, covered in blood and often dusted with feces from their time in stacked crates, into trash bags and cans after their throats were slit.

The following morning, an animal rights activist recorded this video that seems to show workers throwing out chicken bodies from both sites. The activist counted over 23 full trash cans emptied.

What's especially interesting about the video, is that at the Eastern Parkway site a worker with a shirt from a company called Dar Pro explains that the chickens are "going to a rendering company. They make ethanol out of it. They make oil out of it. It's a big process. 10 percent ethanol, that's corn and everything else."

This abbreviated explanation doesn't make total sense: ethanol is an alcohol made from the sugars in grains such as corn, sugar beets, and sugar cane, and a gasoline additive. Flex-fuel vehicles run on fuel that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas. Animal material can't be turned into ethanol, but what it can be used for, along with ethanol, is making biodiesel, which can be used as a cleaning diesel additive or, for specially set up engines, a fuel by itself.

First, though, the discarded animal pieces need to be rendered, a process of grinding them up and cooking them at high temperatures until the fat separates. The nonfat powder created by this is a high-protein substance called meat and bone meal, which is commonly incorporated into pet food and livestock feed, among other things.

It so happens that the services offered by Dar Pro, a subsidiary of the Texas company Darling Ingredients, include "full-service management and recycling of your inedible meat by-products." The company runs a biodiesel refinery in Butler, Kentucky, jointly operates another in Norco, Louisiana with petro-giant Valero, and supplies a third in Montreal.

Rina Deych, a leader of the anti-kaporos group Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, said that in her two decades or so of advocating to end the slaughter, she has only observed a few operations that seem to be processing the meat for people to eat. The rest of the carcasses, she said, go in the trash. She was skeptical of the explanation that the Eastern Parkway chickens are going to be made into some kind of consumer good.

"If it’s true, then they’re not totally going to waste, but that’s a hell of a way to obtain that kind of product," she said. "You can get [biodiesel] from vegetable matter, if that’s in fact what's being done here."


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