DemKota rendering permit clears first hurdle, but residents raise concerns about foul odor
A conditional use petition that would allow DemKota Ranch Beef to add rendering operations was approved Tuesday night by the Brown County Planning and Zoning Commission.
That was after nearly two and a half hours of discussion and debate.
The rendering facility would cost about $18 million, said Adam Bode, DemKota's chief operating officer.
When the beef process plant was originally built as Northern Beef Packers, there were plans for a rendering facility, but there was no money to finish it. Now, DemKota wants to add that service.
Residents raise concerns about odor
But the issue is not without opposition as residents raised concerns about the possibility of a foul odor if rendering is allowed.
Meat rendering is a process that turns animal byproduct not suitable for human consumption into products like bone meal and tallow. Those are the end products DemKota hopes to produce.
Residents at the meeting, though, said the odor could lower property values and the overall quality of life in Brown County.
But Bode said that the project is essential in order for the beef processing plant to remain competitive with larger corporations. DemKota has the capacity to process 1,500 head of cattle per day five to six days per week, although the plant is not currently at capacity, he said.
DemKota to face toughest market conditions in decades
"We're heading into some of the toughest market conditions this industry has seen in a couple of decades," he said.
Demkota needs to be competitive in every aspect of its business, which it currently is not, Bode said.
The rendering equipment that would be used is not the same as what was used 20 years ago, Bode said, adding that's what people might think of when they consider the odor associated with meat rendering. Investments made by the company would go beyond federal and state regulations, he said.
Ken Le Faive, director of sales at Haarslev Processing Technology, also spoke at the meeting. Haarslev would provide some of the equipment needed for rendering at the plant on the southwestern edge of Aberdeen. Haarslev is a global company that has installed rendering plants in densely populated cities all over the world, Le Faive said.
He explained the rendering process to the commission. The system is closed loop, meaning there will be no product exposed to the air. Raw materials are put through grinders and pumped into cookers. Tallow is then separated from the solids, said Le Faive, and the solids are ground into a powder.
The odor is confined to the machinery with no avenue to escape, said Le Faive. That's because of chemical air scrubbers where an odor compound is mixed with a chemical, creating a compound that does not smell, he said.
Robynn Andracsek, an associate environmental engineer with Burns & McDonnell, prepared the air permit application for the DemKota's rendering facility. It will have to be approved by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Andracsek said that DemKota is offering to control 95% of rendering emissions, more than the 66% required. But some residents at the meeting were concerned that the remaining 5% would still be enough to cause a significant odor.
The rendering facility emissions would be so low that the facility qualifies for the lowest type of permit offered, Andracsek said.
Stipulations added to permit
David North, a member of the commission, recommended approval with stipulations including that DemKota meet:
- All state and federal regulations for air quality, and
- All state and federal regulations for odor control.
The 5% emissions could smell different to different people, said North, but the only way to find out is to let Demkota try to render. If there are problems or the stipulations aren't met, the county can revoke the permit, he said.
Brown County Deputy State’s Attorney Ross Aldentaler suggested the commission add local regulations as a stipulation in addition to federal and state regulations. And he suggested allowing residents to file private nuisance complaints if they think there are odor problems.
Those stipulations were all added to the final motion. County Commissioner Mike Gage abstained from voting. He and Aldentaler explained that Gage could potentially present bias after touring Demkota's facility recently.
The Brown County State's Attorney's Office recommended Gage abstain from voting. That is due to the risk of bias and not to allege any actual bias, according to a news release sent out by the office on Wednesday morning.
DemKota still has to get approvals from at the state level before the project officially gets the green light.
DemKota has been operational since 2015. It took over after Northern Beef Packers closed and went through the bankruptcy process.