County Moves Forward On Slaughter/Rendering Facility Proposal

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Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 11:45 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county is moving forward with its proposal to site slaughterhouses and rendering plants on agricultural land, although such facilities are already allowed in industrial zones.  The council will be discussing this matter during a Special Committee of the Whole meeting on November 7, 2012, and could approve the ordinance that evening.

The proposal will allow slaughter facilities, which are defined to include “incidental edible rendering,” as a permitted use where a facility is no larger than 15,000 square feet, employs 20 or fewer employees, and processes at least 50% of agricultural products produced in Whatcom County.  Larger facilities are treated as a conditional use, which requires approval from the development-friendly County Hearings Examiner.  The proposal will allow slaughter and rendering facilities as a primary use, i.e., a use that is independent of a farm operation.

Previously, I posted concerns about siting slaughterhouses on farm land, but I did not address rendering facilities.  Rendering involves processing dead animals into ingredients for a wide range of industrial and consumer goods, such as pet food, soaps, candles, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and tallow and lard consumed by humans.  Because rendering facilities are currently a conditional use, and this proposal will make “small” rendering facilities a permitted use, it is a deregulation.

After attending the council’s October 9, 2012 Planning Committee, I do not believe council has sufficient understanding of the rendering industry to deregulate rendering facilities.  Council did not know the approximate size of a “small scale” facility, and determined it was under 15,000 square foot based on the applicant’s self-serving testimony and the size of the county’s sole slaughter facility.  Ditto for the number of permitted employees.  The proposed definition of rendering fails to reflect a multitude of rendering byproducts.

Although the council did not understand exactly what rendering plants did, or how they operated, they ignored objections by the Northwest Clean Air Agency regarding odor and air quality impacts.  They deemed it sufficient to restrict rendering operations to edible byproducts, which produce less odor and pollution than inedible rendering byproducts.  Again, they relied upon the applicant for important information.

The rendering industry recognizes two classifications of processing plants: integrated and independent.  An integrated rendering plant is generally operated in conjunction with a meat packing plant, and is located on site and works in tandem with either a slaughterhouse or a poultry processing plant.  Integrated rendering plants can produce both edible and inedible byproducts in the same facility, although the processes are separated.  

Independent rendering plants operate separately from a slaughter facility and collect and process “4D” animals (dead, diseased, dying or disabled,) from a variety of sources such as farms, slaughterhouses, zoos, shelters, veterinary clinics, grocery stores, and road kill.  Independent rendering plants only process inedible byproducts. 

Because the county ordinance restricts rendering facilities to edible byproducts, (i.e, an integrated processing plant,) the rendering plant will likely be associated with a slaughterhouse.  It does not appear that council understood this nuance.  It is unclear if the limitations on facility size and number of employees applies to the entire integrated rendering facility/slaughterhouse, or if this permits two 15,000 square foot buildings and 40 employees per operation/site.  

The county continues to ignore the environmental impacts of slaughter and rendering facilities, treating this as a matter that is magically resolved elsewhere in the permitting process.  This is an important issue that needs to be understood and addressed before new regulations are enacted.

The sheer volume of waste produced by the slaughter industry is daunting. Rendering plants collect approximately 100 million pounds of dead or dying animal remains EVERY DAY.  Because the county will not be rendering “inedible" byproducts, how will these remains be disposed of? State disposal methods are confusing and vary depending on the type of animal and the circumstances surrounding death, but can include burial, composting, rendering, landfill, incineration, or natural decomposition. The complexity and importance of dealing with animal disposal is reflected in a 2004 letter from the Washington State Department of Agriculture to the FDA regarding safety protocols for mad cow disease.  http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/dockets/02n0273/02n-0273-c000487-vol40.pdf

For off-site disposal, considerations include increases in traffic and road infrastructure necessary for daily removal of large volumes of waste. For on-site disposal, council should review potential land and water contamination issues, infectious disease and public safety concerns, and the ability of rural septic systems to handle high volumes of slaughter industry waste.

Given the problems created by this proposal, I again urge the county council to consider the use of mobile slaughtering units as an alternative to slaughter and rendering facilities on natural resource land.

Doug Karlberg  //  Thu, Nov 01, 2012, 2:54 pm

Wendy,

With all due respect you are trying to inflame people. Your statement that “Rendering plants collect 100 million pounds of dead or dying animal remains EVERYDAY”

This is not a crime, but a public service.

Thank goodness that someone is picking up the mess for us.

If we closed all rendering plants in the US, leaving 100,000,000 pounds of dead animals EVERYDAY in the streets, could I give out your phone umber to those folks who would like to contact you?

In all seriousness, cleaning up our local waste prevents the spread of disease, and ifs a good thing to do.

Your outrage at the inclusion of a rendering plant associated with a slaughterhouse, is misplaced. Immediate rendering of the animal byproducts from a butcher shop is only a good sanitary practice. Rendering immediately after butchering REDUCES odors, not increases them.

A slaughterhouse of this size is only a butcher shop on steroids, which used to be in every grocery store. One difference is though a USDA inspected slaughterhouse is kept to HIGHER standards than a butcher shop, because it’s volume attracts inspectors and is assessed a higher risk score.

Last to your suggestion of using mobile slaughtering units, which are properly named MSU’s. I know something about these, as these were used when I was kid to butcher the cows we raised for food. These MSUs pull into your field, shoot the cow, and immediately cut their throats, and let the animal bleed out on the ground in a large puddle. Then the cow is hung and gutted. The guts and blood are left on the ground, while the MSU drives away with the meat and hide.

Some how I don’t see these MSU’s as being more environmentally friendly or sanitary then the alternative of bringing the cow into a sanitary facility, butchering them and disposing of their waste in approved fashion by rendering their byproducts.

Growing up in Whatcom County we had lots of these slaughterhouses around. Maybe you don’t remember them, but I can think of four of them, and I don’t remember any of them as being bad neighbors. One of them was right in town, and we sure did like getting our food direct from these slaughterhouses. The meat seemed better direct from the butcher.

You may remember that Freise Hide and Tallow was downtown for years. Right next to the Upfront Theater. Perfectly legal land use, but is that what you really want?

PS: You are not by any chance a vegetarian?


Jack Petree  //  Thu, Nov 01, 2012, 2:56 pm

Imagine the gall of those people, allowing agricultural processing facilities on agricultural land.  Next they’ll be allowing raspberry processing and apple jack making facilities…or…gasp…milking parlors…


Wendy Harris  //  Thu, Nov 01, 2012, 8:27 pm

These comments miss the point of my post, which is that the County Council is deregulating rendering plants as a permitted use without understanding the consequences. 

In a well-intended attempt to limit odor and air pollution, Council is proposing that any rendering of inedible byproducts be prohibited, but failed to consider the problem this creates with regard to disposing of waste remains. In fact, they seemed unaware of the extraordinary volume of waste generated by the slaughter industry and issues of off-site vs. on-site disposal. They did not appreciate the potential health risks created by slaughter waste (hence my reference to the state ag. letter regarding mad cow disease and disposal problems.)

Slaughter begets two industrial processes.. meat processing and rendering.  Council did not understand the relationship between slaughterhouses and rendering plants or the difference between integrated rendering plants and independent rendering plants.  This has resulted in proposal ambiguity. Perhaps they should not be relying so heavily on information provided by the applicant.

Moreover, Council has refused to address hard questions regarding environmental impacts and water availability. It is irresponsible to allow industrial business in ag. land,(which is already permitted in the rural industrial zone) without resolving these concerns.

I want to see our ag. land generate food, not dangerous industrial waste. This proposal takes us in the wrong direction and reflects pro-development ideology rather than sound analysis.


Wendy Harris  //  Thu, Nov 01, 2012, 8:34 pm

And Doug, I see nothing wrong with questioning whether the amount of meat we consume as a society is sustainable.  It takes 40 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and water is a precious and dwindling commodity.


Doug Karlberg  //  Fri, Nov 02, 2012, 11:00 am

Using land use laws to promote a personal disgust with the beef industry, is inappropriate. The land use laws were never written to take on personal vendettas against the beef industry.

The environmental catastrophe is just a hysterical argument, without factual basis.

First it was Hormel and the mega-slaughterhouse, then it was importing of cows from Skagit or BC (the crime of crimes), and then it was rendering of animals, and now you are suggesting that the land use applicant will pollute our air or water without any significant evidence that the applicant has abused the water or air in the past.

All the while you cannot admit that your job killing efforts hurt real people who are suffering without jobs. To be unemployed is a terrible privation, one that eats at the soul and spirit as well as the body.

Your efforts have produced harm to real people who need jobs to survive, and you do so from an intellectual tower on high.

I visited the UW law library once and there were seven stories of bookcases eight feet high, filled with laws that we are required to follow. Either we are incredibly stupid and could not function as a society, or the intellectuals are grabbing power to organize our lives in the “proper” fashion.

I wonder how much freedom is left after we follow all the laws. Maybe we should prune a few, which do not enrich our lives, or give people credit for being smart enough to direct their own lives without so much intervention.

It should not be a crime in Whatcom County to create jobs, and people who have jobs should not have so much say over what jobs are created, as long as the jobs are legal, and hey follow the pollution control laws already in place.

This slaughter house is of the same scale that Whatcom County has had for the last century, and if they do well and exceed the artificial hiring cap of twenty employees, I say Hallelujah, and give them a medal. When did success and hiring more employees become a crime in Whatcom County??

I cannot believe that the County Council would make a hiring cap a law, in this employment environment. Whatcom County currently has approximately 7,000 unemployed people (voters), and Whatcom County also has 15% of its residents under the poverty level, which is higher than most Washington counties. How can we improve this without jobs?

Intellectuals sometimes do a poor job of understanding the common folks struggles, as they seldom have those same struggles. They love their own ideas, but that does not mean that we have to cave in and love what makes us unemployed.

Creating an environment where jobs are created is an extraordinarily compassionate thing to do, and I wish Wendy would put her considerable skill to work in that directions, rather than taking on petty job killing projects.

Wendy, although they named a hamburger stand after you, I will not hold that against you. If you come up with some ideas to increase the number of jobs in Whatcom County you will have my full support, as I think helping human beings in their financial struggles is a laudable goal.

This is not personal, but strictly policies that help people.


Wendy Harris  //  Fri, Nov 02, 2012, 7:44 pm

Doug, your accusations bear little resemblance to my statements. You define me as an industry-hating, job-destroying intellectual, deny the well-established environmental consequences of industrial slaughter, measure the extent of over-regulation by the height of library bookshelves, and then accuse me of using “hysterical arguments” without any hint of irony.

 


Doug Karlberg  //  Sat, Nov 03, 2012, 9:36 am

Irony, is that when one person successfully does their job, that twenty people lose theirs.

From your own words Wendy, your dislike of the beef industry is palpable, and this is from your words. I did not have to put them in your mouth.

The “well established environmental consequences of industrial slaughter” is far from well established in my mind. Specifics of this industrial mistreatment are lacking. Specifics of the plants, where they were located, when this abuse of the environment occurred, are lacking in your arguments. Even more important is that even given examples of slaughter-house abusing the environment, does not give me enough to indict a whole industry because of the actions of a few, nor most importantly convince me that the bad actions of a few far away from Whatcom County and likely long ago, are relevant to the modest proposal at hand.

Nothing breeds resentment more, than being falsely accused of the bad behavior of others.

Your words about the abuses of the cattle slaughter business do not ring true to me, because I have actually seen the slaughter business in Whatcom County.

Here are two examples of old slaughterhouses that are still in existence in Whatcom county that people can go look at ans see the extreme environmental mess left behind. One is the slaughterhouse at the intersection of Portal Way and I-5, and the other is the old Kratzig facility which now processes fish on the Hannegan.

There is no legacy mess that I can see, unless you see a little old manure, which is so toxic that is must be bagged up in ploy bags and hauled of to the hardware store where people buy it and spread it on their flower beds.

The old Kratzig facility is filled with new cars, which are people with JOBS processing fish from, (aghast), other states and nations.

The proposed slaughter-house would be already regulated by the EPA, USDA, DOE, and the FDA, all of which hold several rows in the law library, and I would assume possessed more detailed knowledge of this industry than you or I put together.

Well at least more than I possess.

Pointing to old abuse of the environment, that happened long ago, and somewhere else, and does not apply to this permit, is logically flawed argument. Your examples of abuse, are vague and not on point.

Last, the idea that Whatcom County can regulate the importation of cows from any where else, especially other states appears to me to be a clear violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. When attorneys do not recognize the Constitution when this regulation so clearly violates the Commerce Clause, give me pause as to the zeal with which job destruction is being pursued.

Unless you can point to some pernicious risk that Oregon cows present, then counselor, I believe this 50% local cows only is a bunch of BS, and a clear violation of the US Constitution by County Council. Interstate and international commerce is exclusively the jurisdiction of Congress.

As a trained attorney you should know this, which I believe is evidence of your lack of objectivity on this issue. Violating the US Constitution is not a sign of objectivity.

Well I have milked this issue enough. Nothing personal Wendy, but I disagree with you, and I think your arguments inhibit job creation which has impacts on real peoples lives, that you do not seem to want to admit.

I will let you have the valuable last word counselor, and leave this in the hands of the jurors (readers).

I would like to thank the NW Citizen for letting us debate this subject of job creation, as it is on the minds of people across our nation.


John Lesow  //  Sat, Nov 03, 2012, 10:23 pm

Wendy Harris won this debate.  Doug Karlberg lost.

Jack Petree—go to your room.  Your random musings on slaughter are well documented in previous online snippets and snipes.  You just can’t seem to resist jumping on Wendy Harris or Jean Melious at every online opportunity.  Try to resist that temptation.

Loosely, the proposition was, “Should Whatcom County Move Forward on a Slaughtering/Rendering Proposal Now Before County Council”?

Wendy makes a convincing case that Council is, yet again, stumbling forward without adequate consideration of the ramifications of allowing an industrial use in an agricultural zone, an activity prohibited in nearby counties that do not allow slaughter as permitted use.

Doug has taken a different tack, relying mainly on anecdotes and vague notions about “jobs”, with a little schoolboy humor and class warfare thrown in to jazz up the rhetoric.

Wendy’s opinions are based on actual attendance at Council meetings where the topic of Slaughtering on Ag was actively considered.  As well as her considerable research on the subject. 

The last time I saw Doug in Council Chambers was when he was running for Mayor a few years ago.  His positions on the issue would have more authority if they were based on attendance and participation at public hearings, both Planning Commission and County Council.  As well as a review of staff reports and minutes.

Most of the arguments, pro and con, are ones I have heard over the past four months in Planning Commission and Council meetings.  I was one of the two Planning Commissioners that voted against the Slaughterhouse proposal and I have not heard any convincing arguments over the past three months that would change my mind.

I did support the original Planning Commission Staff proposal for “Small Scale Slaughterhouses”, which has devolved into the mess now before Council. 

I am not against jobs and, having been employed in the private sector for 38 years, know a thing or two about capitalism.

A few comments on Doug’s polemics:

Yes, the fact that rendering plants collect 100 million pounds of dead or dying animals every day in the U.S. is certainly a valuable public service.  And one would expect that in a first world country like ours, the disposal of the remains would incorporate first world methods, particularly with respect to water use and effluent treatment.  My concern is the effectiveness of septic tanks on agricultural land in Whatcom County.  A slaughterhouse may be able to handle the effluent effectively.  But no one really knows.  And each ag parcel is unique.  Some perk better than others.

The present proposal is for much larger facilities than were contemplated when this matter was first considered.  Reasonable objections should be expected.

Doug’s childhood memories of MSU’s (Mobile Slaughtering Units) are interesting, but I doubt if a modern MSU would operate in the same crude manner as his description;  blood and guts on the ground, puddles of blood, etc.  In my childhood, cars burned leaded gas and polluted like crazy.  Cars are much cleaner now.
So are MSU’s.  Unfortunately, this alternative has not had much consideration, other than a positive report submitted by Clayton Petree.

If I were a cynic, I would suggest that farmers are not keen on MSU’s because the prospect of a free upzone from an agricultural use to an industrial use by a compliant County Council would have a positive effect on the farmer’s land value.  While an MSU, no matter how efficient, would do nothing for the farmer’s bottom line.  Fortunately I am not a cynic.

Doug then gets huffy.  “Your efforts have produced harm to real people who need jobs to survive”.  This statement, and the claptrap that precedes it, is nonsense. 
The measure hasn’t even been enacted yet.  If it is, let’s see how many job seekers flock to those great slaughterhouse jobs.

Ask the average citizen where they would work, given the choice.  A slaughterhouse or an abortion clinic?  Both are engaged in a similar activity that would produce jobs and a paycheck.  My bet is that most would choose the clinic.

“Irony is when one person does their job and twenty lose theirs”.  Proof?  Show me 20 jobs that have been lost due to the present proposal.

I don’t see the similiarity between slaughterhouses on Ag land and a fish processor on the Hannegan.  Or a slaughterhouse in an industrial zone.  Remember that Slaughterhouses are now allowed in Rural Industrial Manufacturing and Industrial Zones.  In fact, I would wager that most of the County Council and Planning Commission would green-light slaughterhouses in Rural Zones, given the opportunity.  How many readers would support that?

I agree the requirement that 50% of the cattle originate in Whatcom County would be difficult to enforce.  I made the same observation with respect to food processing when the matter was before the Planning Commission five years ago.  Commerce Clause violation?  It would be an interesting point to litigate.

It’s disheartening that recent online discussions of “jobs” have centered on slaughterhouses and coal exports.  Neither will produce that many jobs and both will result in the continuing mongrelization of Whatcom County.


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