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A good fertilizer? Liquid animal! Your opinions?!

 
              
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I am a biologist in a unique industry where we use a technology which liquefies animals.  The purpose is to dispose of diseased animals or potentially diseased animals.  We break down the peptides to sizes very well below that of prions (the most difficult pathogen to destroy - mad cow, scrapie, etc.).  When the digestion is complete, we are left with two byproducts:

1.  bone shadows (calcium phosphate!) - cleaned out bones which crumble very easily and can be spread as fertilizer... bone meal!

2.  effluent - a homogenous liquid composed of amino acids, small peptides, sugars, and nutrients.  Right now many of the universities and government facilities which use alkaline hydrolysis dispose of this in the sewer for simplicity, but I think it is a huge waste and should be recycled back to the environment!  I am writing a proposal for a study scheduled at Purdue University in February, and am doing my research.

N - 1%
P - .33%  (please note that most of the phosphate is in the bone shadows, and is more desirable in that form as it prevents leaching)
K - 3.5%

I think this is a great opportunity to recycle rich nutrients and amino acids back into the environment.  The liquid is safe and sterile and destroys any chemicals/disease which were present in the animals.  It is essentially the result of a natural process that we just speed up.  Any thoughts on this as fertilizer?    (Thank you in advance)
 
paul wheaton
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Hmmmm .... 

Seems pretty creepy.

I guess my concerns are that I wouldn't want somebody else's problems coming onto my land.  Granted, you are saying that you've de-problemed it.  But, of course, that's the same sort of thing that lots of industry says 10 years before the site becomes a superfund cleanup site. 

So I have lots of skepticism.  Of course, I'm probably one of the most skeptical folks playing in the organic space. 

Other concerns would be about what drugs the animals would have been on before they died.  And did those drugs get broken down too.  Are we talking about using some sort of microbial to do the breakdown?  What's the story on those guys in my soil?

Do you have tests showing cow loaded with BSE before;  resulting soup has no detectable trace of BSE?

Can it be OMRI certified?  That's a biggie.


 
Kelda Miller
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Wow, first, it seems totally Whack that there is enough diseased animals to create a process to liquefy all of them. The problem has roots a few steps back.

what to do with the stuffl once it's done? True, I agree with Paul about not wanting to invite the pathogens to spread, but you say it's all cleaned up....

Makes me think of Tagro, the soil/fertilizer that the city of Tacoma creates out of human poo. it Could be pretty nasty stuff, but because they test it all the time, it actually is much cleaner than buying a truckload of soil off of craigslist. The techies know all about what's in Tagro, to the minutae.

It may be a stupid trusting-science blunder, but if it can be tested all the time as well....
what do others think?
 
paul wheaton
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And here is the soilent green perspective:  we need more goop for fertilizers so....    Hey you!  Your animal is sick so we're taking it! 

 
              
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kelda wrote:
Wow, first, it seems totally Whack that there is enough diseased animals to create a process to liquefy all of them. The problem has roots a few steps back.


Hehe... I can understand the creep factor...  I guess I shouldn't have honed in on the disease aspect.  That is why the technology was created, and infectivity studies have proven it to be the only effective treatment of prions (mad cow, CWD, scrapie) for inactivation.  Even incineration at 1562 degrees F has some reinfectivity.  If there is a disease outbreak, it isolates the contamination area (CWD outbreak in Wisconsin, avian flu strain in Arkansas, this week the TB outbreak in Indiana, etc.).  The effluent from those outbreaks are disposed of with bio-containment in mind, and not used as fertilizer.

Most digestions do not deal with diseases.  The technology is used primarily at universities for disposal of the necropsy animals, USDA and other govt facilities, farms, animal shelters, veterinary offices, meat processing plants are using it to dispose of risk materials that cannot be processed (brains, spinal cords, eyeballs), highway departments for deer (fear of spreading CWD through compost) and rabies-prone species.  It is sterile (all chemicals and pathogens destroyed), and the technology has been in use for 17 years.  At the end of the process, there is nothing 'animal' about it.  Just basic nutrients.  Not much different than natural fish-based fertilizers, is it?  Or biologic compost?  or even a plant-based compost (same basic building blocks).  This is the same natural degradation process as what occurs in nature, just accelerated.  Sorry, a lot of information I know.

Any thoughts on the quality of the fertilizer with NPK quantities listed?  (The USDA has had a land application permit in Illinois since 2001, and actively uses it, but quantitative studies have not been performed.)
 
              
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paul wheaton wrote:
Do you have tests showing cow loaded with BSE before;  resulting soup has no detectable trace of BSE?

Can it be OMRI certified?   That's a biggie.


Yes to infectivity studies, and I haven't looked into OMRI... but will now, so thank you.  Also thank you for your articles that consumed my interest for most of my day, and lead me to this informative forum.

As to your other question:  The process uses heat, water, and alkali (potassium hydroxide if the effluent is to be land-applied, and sodium hydroxide can be substituted for a lower cost, but not appropriate for land application).  The EPA/USDA/Board of Animal Health, etc have no problem with land application.  Blood/bone meal is much scarier!!!  It's just been used for so long that people don't consider the source...

...laughing at soilent green..... i saw that movie the first week i started this job... ahhhhh! 
 
Leah Sattler
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what is used to temper the  extreme alkaline (presumably) efluent that results. soap makers  are very careful to make sure that no sodium hydroxide exists in the finished product by making sure there is more than enough fat to alter the sodium hydroxide. A batch that has failed to saponify must be disposed of properly and i certainly wouldn't dump it on my garden. I'm a skeptic queen, but I can be convinced if the evidence truly points the right direction.
 
Susan Monroe
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"I guess I shouldn't have honed in on the disease aspect. "

If you hadn't, we would have wondered why you didn't.

"The EPA/USDA/Board of Animal Health, etc have no problem with land application."

Those parties would have no problem with spraying live BSE and scrapie on farm land.  In my opinion, they're in the pockets of every nasty company known.

So, if it's been in use for 17 years, what have they been doing with it up to now?

Yes, get it OMRI-certified and we'll think about it.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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Having the green light from "EPA/USDA/Board of Animal Health, etc" does say that there is no immediately detectable toxicity.    But these are the same folks that have given the green light to lots of stuff I'm not comfortable using, including genetically modified organisms that splice bacteria DNA with plant DNA.

They also offered the green light on stuff like clopyralid.

I trust OMRI a lot more - but even then, I tend to avoid a lot of OMRI stuff for one reason or another.  I tend to want to make my own fertilizers via permaculture techniques or cover crops. 

If it were OMRI certified, I would seriously consider liquid cow as a feed supplement for chickens

 
Susan Monroe
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"...liquid cow as a feed supplement for chickens."

Why liquid?

Sue
 
                                      
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With only 1% nitrogen, how would the cost to the consumer be justified?
 
              
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Location: Indiana
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Leah Sattler wrote:
....what is used to temper the  extreme alkaline (presumably) efluent that results. soap makers  are very careful to make sure that no sodium hydroxide exists in the finished product by making sure there is more than enough fat to alter the sodium hydroxide.

Leah:   KOH is used instead of NaOH if it is to be used as fertilizer.  The process is run out far beyond liquefying the animals to allow the chemical reaction to proceed to completion (at 200 deg F, animals are liquid @ 2-5 hours, process goes to 16 or 18 hours).  The pH is approx 11 for the effluent, and is adjusted based on the plant/soil recipient.  People put lime down for acidic soil... or alphalpha for example... well, little if any adjusting for that application.  Also... what BSE?  Not here in the US, knock on wood  lol... spreading the ash from incineration or outer-specie access to ashes in the landfills would spread TSEs.  AH is the only proven technology for prion inactivation.  A prion is composed of 2 or more proteins.  The tiny inner core of a prion is approx 27,000 Daltons in size.  This process yields fragments MUCH smaller than that..... the very largest being 2,000 Daltons.... There are no prions.

Susan:  I won't argue the corporate connections of govt agencies, because I don't know one way or the other.  I understand what you are saying.  I will tell you that I have worked with the scientists at various levels, and they are some of the most intelligent and 'protective' people I have worked with.  The process is long and difficult for approval, and the regulations are tight.  That is based on my experience only though.  Large-scale, some rule bending may occur.  Trust me, at my level, it is quite rigid. 

For the past 17 years?  Well, the only facilities that have used the technology are university, govt, and military, if for nothing else 1.  They have high responsibility for disease outbreak, and 2.  The cost of the equipment has been about a million dollars for a 4000-pound unit.  Their goal was to get rid of animals, mainly lab animals, and be done with it.  So they sewer dispose of it, and pay the surcharges for doing so.  One exception:  The USDA in Illinois land applies it, and has since 2001.  No problems.  Now, there are systems of this size for $60-70,000, and they are mobile, so other markets can afford it.  These markets will want to investigate the value of the effluent, and recycle.... especially farmers and highway depts.  Fertilize that highway/hillside grass with it to prevent erosion!  They need those plants healthy, and stable.
 
              
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Paul:  I'm not sure about for a feed supplement.... what would be the draw to it?  Just curious.  Interesting.  As for USDA, etc... I can of course think of some approved items/regs that I don't agree with by those organizations, but considering the difficulty in obtaining permits and approval, and the volume of issues they deal with... I would assume there would be at least a couple I didn't agree with.  If you could go through the process I have, it might restore some faith.  The research done by those organizations saves lives.  USDA APHIS research and field work is invaluable.  From a science perspective, I support these organizations and rely on their expertise.... room for improvement or not.  Again, I do understand that some do have justified issues with them as well.

dvmcmrhp52 wrote:
With only 1% nitrogen, how would the cost to the consumer be justified?


DVM: Well, depends on what the cost is, right?... I assume this would be sold at a considerably low cost since it would be a mutually benefical relationship.  I get rid of my liquid, you receive an inexpensive nutrient fertilizer. 

Everyone is always so worried about nitrogen.  Many natural fertilizers are much lower in N than synthetic.  Based on my biology background, and my striped back yard (from testing different fertilizers, concentrations, pH levels, etc. for the past 5 years), I can tell you that I would buy it.  ChemLawn asked me what I was using in 2006 when everyone else's lawns were brown.  My brother's dogs don't get sick like they used to with chemical fertilizers, and the results last longer. 

N - foilage
P - root development, flowering
K - overall health of plants

High N gives quick and pretty results, but the rapid growth compromises other mechanisms.  P can leach, but this has low levels of the leaching P, and the bone ash can be spread for a form of P that will time-release.  K is obtained primarily through mining.  It is a limited commodity and the cost of the product has doubled in the last year and a half.  This has a higher value of K than most fertilizers.  We have already invested in the cost of the K when we purchase the necessary KOH for the digestion.

Here is what I have found over the past five years:  There are no instant results.  It takes 2 weeks or so before a subtle difference is noticed.  At week 4-5 it is very noticeable.  After a few months, your neighbor needs another dose of ChemLawn, and you still have consistent healthy grass, much improved from the initial state.  When a drought or stress occurs, even the greenest of the green chemically treated lawns choke, but yours withstands the stress with minimal consequence, and recovers quite well.  I truly believe that less is more.

I'm not pretending to be an expert.  I am learning, and any feedback is constructive.  I hope this make sense... it is late here and I am nodding off...
 
Leah Sattler
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this may or may not be a silly question but here goes. If the full animal is used than it should have all the other micro nutrients that go with it right? maybe that is why such a big differnence in chemical yards and yards treated with this product. I would suspect that chemical yard treatments and fertilizers would be prety lean in trace minerals. Nitrogen alone may result in a quick green up but not promote overall plant health to give it the ability to withstand some adverse conditions. has this stuff been analyzed to find out what else it has in it? like for instance by goats get a mineral that has 2000ppm of copper and (?) 40,000  (?)vit A IU per pound. how much of that stuff makes into the finsished product if they were to be.........liquified......poor goaties
 
              
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Leah, All of the nutrients are there.  Just think of the nutrients present in a living animal!  In the tissue and body systems, the amino acids, dna...... It is all there, just broken down into basic forms, which is beneficial.  It removes some of the complexity, but not all.  Great food for microorganisms.  Oh, and as for nitrogen?  Plants can get all the nitrogen they need IF the soil is complex and fertile... I'm sure you all know this, so pardon the basic info... the atmosphere is 78% N.  This form of atmospheric nitrogen cannot be used directly by plants.  There are nitrogen fixing bacteria in soil which convert the N to a usable form, and the rich organic matter from this effluent serves as a feed source for those bacteria, creating a more complex soil system.  Actually, the effluent is being used at Purdue University Microbiology labs as a growth medium for bacteria (just like expensive LB medium), and sustains growth for bacteria on it's own.  The bacteria we are growing need all kinds of oddball nutrients...This means that there is a plentiful variety of nutrients.  Now, you're probably wondering what kind of bacteria cesspool you'd have if you had a jug of this in your garage.  Not a problem!  The pH is too high to support bacterial growth in the solution.  I have some in my garage that is 10 years old, and hasn't changed one bit.  I could store it for another 40 years, or more!  Once you apply it to the ground, compost, or manure, the pH drops rapidly and supports bacterial growth.  If I lowered the pH in the jug and let it sit for a day, then I'd have a stinky mess on my hands.... anaerobic digestion in a jug!  stinky!  Kansas State stores their effluent in 5000 gallon tanks, and a few years ago someone got the idea that they wanted to store it at a neutral pH (we warned them not to!).  We received a phone call the next day, because the smell was horrendous - across campus!  They soon figured out that they had an anaerobic digestion operation taking place in their holding tank, but without anything to harvest the gasses. 

Leah Sattler wrote:
...how much of that stuff makes into the finsished product if they were to be.........liquified......poor goaties


Well, if by chance there is copper in the effluent, it comes from pipes, supply water, or predatory animals like coyotes.  I suppose it could come from goats.  From what I understand, copper is insoluble at the pH of the effluent.  So, the copper would not be suspended in the solution.  It would collect externally, and not be part of the fertilizer. 

Thanks for teaching me about the sad little goats    I had no idea, and had to google it.  I do have a chemical analysis, but it was for sewage disposal purposes and is detailed only in areas of sewage concern.  I am having another analysis conducted by our state chemist's office.
 
              
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OMRI Certification:  I was optimistic, even excited, but I don't know about this.... to get a list of the substances allowed, I have to send $33.  To submit an application, I have to pay another $38.  I can get a consultant to help me decide if I should apply or not, and I have called several, and there is an upfront fee!  Who knows how much! 

If approved (or approved as 'restricted', I have to pay $390-$1950, and that is something I have to renew for $234-$1170, annually.  I'm sure a great deal of paperwork goes with proving the gross sales of my company - yuck.  Then, I also have a product review fee of $590, the price for a product with more than one 'ingredient', and that has to be renewed at $340/yr.  Potassium is a mined mineral, so I have to obtain a heavy metals analysis (which I already have, but it has to come from one of their accepted certified labs instead).  Since I would be considered a compost-natured product, I'd fall under this:  "For compost and products that contain compost, several analyses are required, including, but not limited to, biological indicators, such as E. coli and Salmonella, and finished product levels of arsenic, cadmium, and lead."  - again, from their accepted certified labs - We are talking THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in testing here.  Thousands!!! 

I don't sell the fertilizer, and will not be.  I make the tissue digesters and do research.  I am doing fertilizer research from a scientific/environmental concern/improvement standpoint.  I'm sick of it being wasted because it is a burden to do the right thing and research/recycle.  The point isn't to mass-market the fertilizer in my opinion, the point is to arrange a mutually beneficial relationship between the user, who has invested in a more environmentally friendly process, creating a burdensome abundant supply of an ag-byproduct,-- and a farmer or individuals who could use and appreciate an inexpensive agricultural input.  If I start getting into this certification junk, then my systems become less affordable because of the costs I will incur, and the fertilizer will become less affordable, and it seems like selling out.  I want this material to be recycled, and I want it to be inexpensive!  I don't want some commercial product.  Then I have to bottle the stuff in plastic containers, and use fuel to ship it everywhere, and that seems counteractive to any environmental progress.

I was interested in doing this since it is regarded so highly.  For some reason it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
 
                                      
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Just for the record, the reason chemlawns are brown in the middle of summer is exactly because all they apply is nitrogen for the most part, and it isn't even slow release more often than not.

That said, nitrogen is important for plant health but hardly in the amounts normally used on lawns.

Chemlawns thin out and weed up in a few years for a reason.

 
              
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dvmcmrhp52 wrote:
Just for the record, the reason chemlawns are brown in the middle of summer is exactly because all they apply is nitrogen for the most part, and it isn't even slow release more often than not.

That said, nitrogen is important for plant health but hardly in the amounts normally used on lawns.

Chemlawns thin out and weed up in a few years for a reason.



Yes, I figured you knew that, but may have responded feistily because your original question was a response I have been getting from many people... nitrogen nitrogen nitrogen!   If it's free, and you just have to come pick it up, it sounds cost-effective to me!    have a good weekend all!
 
Susan Monroe
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BioSam, it may be a perfectly good product, but since greed runs the world, some of us have learned to be suspicious. 

Our government, the people who are supposed to work for US (not vice versa) have promised us that DDT was safe, Agent Orange was safe, RoundUp is safe, genetically-modified food and animals are safe, nuclear reactors are safe, etc.

These people and the people like them, are perfectly happy poisoning us, our kids, our land, our air and our water, just to make a profit.  You know this is true.

So, with a background of deceit that stretches back about a century at least, you are expecting us to take you at your word.  And your word may be gospel.  But we don't know that.

Our suspicion isn't personal, it's just that we've been screwed for so long, we expect it now.

Sorry.

Sue
 
                        
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I would use your product, if it was proven that the process destroyed prions (they're tough to "kill".  I would feed it to plants, not animals, but I might let soldier fly larvae eat it and feed them to the chickens.

I use fish emulsion, and I love it, although I don't think it's a great value for the money.  I think of fish emulsion as a way to rapidly add humic acids and feed soil microbes without turning the soil.

I'm not sure about the energy balance- it sounds like a high energy way to recover nutrients from an industrial agriculture system that is fundamentally unsustainable.  Confinement animal operations already generate mountains of manure that isn't used; this might not be any different.



 
John Meshna
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Whole animal digestion is one of those things that happens everyday and most people don't know it.  It's not just farm animals either.  There are huge numbers of domestic pets  and stray animals that are put down and unclaimed everyday in large cities and something has do be done with their remains.  I wouldn't want to work in a place that does this but it has to be done.
  The effluent does, usually get sent into the city waste water treatment plants and then discharged into rivers or the ocean in some cases.  I worry because my understanding of mad cow disease is that it's not so much a pathogen as a protein that replicates itself.  I watched a discovery program on it where they talked to a scientist who burned it and then buried the ash in the ground and dug it up more than ten years later and the protein was still there. 
  Since proteins and amino acids are the basis of life on earth I think this "Thing" may hold the secret of life itself.  Where better for life to emerge than from a self replicating protein that can eventually form amino acids?  This is also what worries me about it. 
If burning it and years of decomposition can't destroy it then we need to do more research before we let this stuff out to the general population.
In the mean time though, the disposal of animal bodies still poses a problem so, I'm not sure if there's a perfect, provable solution out there just yet but we need to hurry up and figure this out.  For now, I'm going to cast my vote against putting the byproducts into the soil or the water we drink.
 
              
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Susan:  I understand what you are saying, and appreciate critical review of processes - it's what I do for a living!  I wouldn't want it any other way  

GreenStrong:   I have heard the fish stuff is great, and of course it would be!  It makes sense!  And as for AH, it doesn't use much energy (no emissions either!), and you wouldn't use it just to produce the fertilizer, you would use it to take care of a different problem, which is animal waste and disease control.

Alk Hyd proven to destroy prions? - YES, here is some evidence that is in lay terms

1.  USDA study (with Kansas State Univ, Purdue Univ, Texas A&M, other contributors):  ( http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/662 )

I will reference the Executive Summary section, pages 12, 27, and 28.

  • [li]"The process [alkaline hydrolysis] completely destroyed all representative classes of potentially infectious agents as well as disposing of animal carcasses by solubilization and digestion. (p. 27)"

    [/li]

    [li]"The alkaline hydrolysis process destroys all pathogens listed as index organisms by the State and Territorial Association on Alternative Treatment Technologies (STAATT I and STAATT II), which require a 6-log (99.9999%) reduction in vegetative agents and a 4-log (99.99%) reduction in sporeforming agents. Significantly, the alkaline hydrolysis process has been approved for the treatment of infectious waste in all states in which specific application for such approval has been made (Taylor,2000; Taylor, 2001b).(p. 2"

    [/li]

    [li]The disease agents responsible for TSEs (e.g., scrapie, BSE, and CWD) are highly durable (Brown,
    199. This raises important questions about incineration’s suitability for disposing of TSEinfected—or potentially TSE-infected—carcasses. The UK Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) and the European Commission Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) agree that the risk of TSE-infectivity from ash is extremely small if incineration is conducted at 850°C (1562°F) (SEAC, 2003; SSC, 2003a). TSE experts agree that open-air burning should notbe considered a legitimate TSE-related disposal option. Instead, fixed-facility incineration is preferred (SSC, 2003b, p.4; Taylor, 2001). While alkaline-hydrolysis digestion has been widely reported to be the most robust method for dealing with TSEs (Grady, 2004), under controlled conditions fixed-facility incineration is also an effective means by which to dispose of TSE-infected material
    (Powers, 2003). (p. 12)[/li]



  • 2.  BSE [mad cow] Manual of Procedures ( http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/heasan/man/bseesb/bseesbe.shtml ), section 4.8 alkaline hydrolysis

    alkaline hydrolysis is approved for BSE infected tissues, or SRM (specified risk materials)

     
                  
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    So, Greenstrong and Dirtworks:  to break it down for you, there has been reinfectivity with even closed facility incineration from the ash, even at 1562 F (850 C), but it is a much lower risk compared to other options - uh, burial, open air incineration, rendering, etc.  How many facilities have incinerators?  A lot.  How many facilities have alkaline hydrolysis systems?  Not many.  So, from a disease control perspective, either of the technologies can  be used.  But, at 300 degrees F, for 6 hours, as proven in studies by "the" Dr. David Taylor, alkaline hydrolysis = inactivation of prions!  Prions are extremely resistant to most processes used to destroy pathogens, especially incineration, because it is resistant to dry processes.  Alkali and heat work.

    And for Dirtworks:   Everyone has prion proteins, and the current position is that they do serve a function (experiment:  normal mice > removed normal prion proteins > abnormal functioning).  An infectious prion protein, known as a TSE, is a misfolded prion protein, and is typicaly a dimer, so 2 proteins.  Misfolded proteins cause problems.  A misfolded prion protein causes brain matter degradation... or "holes" in the brain.

    Our process breaks things down into such small pieces, that even these tiny proteins are destroyed (into hundreds of pieces).  So, what you're saying is that you'd rather have the infectious prions entering into the environment from the animal carcasses?  Yikes! 

    This is just a natural process, it occurs in nature, but we add heat to make it work faster and kill pathogens, and we add some agitation to make sure we break up bones and skulls and get all of that neural tissue where infectious prion proteins might be (in the VERY, VERY RARE CASE that there is infectious prion material), and the movement and heat and natural chemical breaks up all of the particles to a point beyond what nature can do...  Alkali is a cleaning agent (because it is basic), so it cleans out the bones and skulls.  Same as nature, just faster, and broken down further, therefore safer.

    By the way, if this is too much information, I do apologize... I don't know the etiquette... Please pick through what you wish to read. 

    I promise you that I am enjoying, and truly appreciate the discussion.  I need to know the concerns and issues, so that I can do my job better, and take those into consideration, and furthermore, represent the public concerns when I am working with governments creating new policies.  Thank you all for your input.
     
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