Composting as an alternative for mortalities and meat residuals from farms and butcher operations

2003 Annual Report for ENE03-075

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $119,179.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Ellen Harrison
Cornell Waste Management Institute

Composting as an alternative for mortalities and meat residuals from farms and butcher operations


Dairy/livestock farmers and custom butchers are finding it increasingly difficult to locate off-farm disposal for dead animals and meat residuals. In many cases these previously rendered materials are being disposed of in an unsound manner on the farm, causing potential farm bio-security and environmental problems.
Passively aerated static pile composting with strategic turning toward completion is proving to be a good method of managing these wastes. It is simple, takes less time than dragging a carcass out back, employs equipment used in daily operations on farms and is cost effective. This method helps protect ground and surface water by reducing pathogens when properly managed. Some research on pathogen reduction is in progress.
CWMI has developed a 20 minute video, “Natural Rendering: Composting Livestock Mortality & Butcher Waste,” a 12-page fact sheet and a set of posters to assist in educational efforts. The fact sheet can be viewed at:

In a multi-state effort, New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania will help implement composting practices on farms and in butcher operations. Through demonstrations, tours, written and visual resources, meetings and hands-on experience; agriculture educators, regulators, veterinarians, farmers and butchers, can be reached with this critical information. Five composting demonstration sites will be set up in each of the three participating states. Farms and butcher shops will be recruited to set up demonstrations where people can learn about and observe the process. Locations will be chosen so that there is good geographic distribution in each state and preferences will be given to locations that can demonstrate both butcher waste and carcass composting methods on their site.

Health and environmental regulator training will occur in each state to educate and try to alleviate some of the problems that currently exist in the vacuum of technical information. Each state is working with their agencies both with field demonstrations, as part of in-service training, as well as through electronic media and newsletters. Where possible, these agency personnel are joining workshops and tours held for the agricultural sector, which can help to promote shared understanding. State regulatory agencies are working on guidance information for disposal of farm mortality and butcher wastes. Natural Resources Conservation Service is also rewriting and expanding their mortality disposal standard. This proposal is allowing us to continue work with them to help shape related policy/documents and help get information out.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Of the 300 educators trained, 60 will work with farms and butchers to compost carcass and butcher waste, improving the economic and environmental situation for these operations.

2. Of the 1000 farms/butchers reached through initial and subsequent trainings, 20% will implement or improve composting practices.

3. 100 Educators and regulators in each of 3 states will avoid confusion and support composting of residuals and carcasses as the transition is made from traditional rendering or from common existing undesirable activities such as dumping and coyote baiting.


15 Demonstration sites will be established (5/state). Standardized records will be kept in each state and compiled at Cornell. To Date: State Coordinators are working with Departments of Ag, Cooperative Extension, NRCS, Natural Resource Conservation Depts. and others. To secure, establish, monitor and implement education programs in each state. Ten of the 15 demonstration sites are established and the five remaining have commitments and will start composting in spring 2004.

Northeast tour will be planned and implemented for ~ 60 people including the state coordinators, agriculture educators associated with demonstration sites and leadership in other organizations. To Date: As this project was being funded the economic climate became ever tighter and we felt that the agency people that would benefit most from this were not able to travel out of county and/or state. We are planning smaller tours in state and still working on electronic methods of getting the appropriate people the information in a collaborative way.

Demonstration site education will engage 1000 people including 300 agriculture educators (including Cooperative Extension, NRCS and consultants), veterinarians, regulators, farmers and custom butchers. To Date: 655 people have attended workshops/ demonstrations, 200 agriculture educators and 455 veterinarians, regulators, farmers and custom butchers.

Farm Shows /events, Vet conferences, newsletters, list servers, www sites will provide a venue for education. To Date: 1170 people have been reached through events such as Empire Farm Days, National Agriculture Agents Association, Soil and Water Conservation National Conference, NOFA-VT, Vermont Farm Show, PASA and others. Information is posted on, and will be linked and or added to other sites as appropriate.
Articles have been written and published in NE Dairy Business, Bio Cycle, Small Farm Quarterly and local newsletters.

Regulator education will reach appropriate regulatory staff to make them aware of this process through meetings, tours, video, fact sheets and posters. To Date: Many of the agencies in different states are trying to set rules and policies on how they should proceed with mortality and butcher waste composting. As decisions and progress are made in one state the working group members are sharing documents with other state agencies. As an unintended spin off, there has also been great interest for Departments of Transportation (DOT) to better manage the road kill they are charged with collecting. Additional funding is being secured to implement such programs.

At the national level, NRCS has written standards for mortality composting which includes composting larger animals such as cows and horses. Each states’ NRCS has the ability to tailor the standard to better address their needs. In NYS, CWMI, Pro Dairy and others were asked to help update the mortality and related compost standard A NYS standard will be in effect in spring 2004. When released other states can adopt them as well as they fit their circumstances.

PA Dept. of Agriculture is developing plans for composting in the event of an emergency animal depopulation situation. Each state is responsible to have a plan in place for mass casualty but it may be developed by different agencies in each state, VT and NY have plans in place as well. PA had a working meeting with agency people (NRCS, PA Dept of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, PA DEP) in summer 2003. NYSDEC has approved the composting method and encouraged training for those who will be composting mortality butcher waste and road kill. NYSDOT has recently written a guidance document for their regions. PA has worked with a municipality to start a deer road kill compost site that will act as a pilot and demonstration site for others. NYS has three demonstration sites to date.

Vermont has worked with the appropriate agencies to produce their own 11 x 17 brochure on mortality composting, it can also be used in other states. They are working closely with NRCS and VTDEC.

Fact Sheets and poster sets have also been distributed to agency people that will be directly involved with this work.

State tours reaching 100 people will be scheduled in year 2 and implemented relying in part on demonstration sites established in this project.
To Date: Three tours have been held including stops highlighting manure, mortality and butcher waste composting.

Video, fact sheets and posters will be made available with 1000 fact sheets and 100 posters/state for distribution. NRAES will continue to distribute “Natural Rendering: Mortality and Butcher Waste Composting” video and the fact sheet will be available from To Date: 2000 Fact sheets and 33 sets of posters are currently being distributed in each state. To date 175 videos have been purchased. As educators purchase them they become part of their lending library resulting in more use that we can not track.

Evaluation will include records of participation in events and a survey of participants of each state to get an indication of how many businesses have adopted or improved practices. To Date: States are keeping track of attendees as practical.

Coordination among the project team will be ensured by phone conferencing and meetings.
To Date: Communication through phone conferencing and e-mail is working well. We have also explored video conferencing as a means to communicate and bring different states agencies together to discuss issues and regulation effecting them.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Milestones and outcomes are reported together(see prior section)


Brian Jerose

[email protected]
WASTE NOT Resource Solutions
1662 Pumpkin Village Rd
Enosburg Falls, VT 05450
Office Phone: 8029338789
J. Craig Williams

[email protected]
Penn State Extension
Tioga County
118 Main Street
Wellsboro, PA 16901
Office Phone: 5707249120
Jean Bonhotal

[email protected]
Cornell Waste Management Institute