Meat Processing Wastewater Treatment & Energy Saving Tips

In this article, we will focus primarily on red meats such as beef, pork, lamb, and venison, however, we work with a range of other meat industries and would be happy to provide further best practice examples on request – simply contact our team

Industrial wastewater treatment plays a key role in a range of meat processing plants and business operations as it contributes to the high levels of sanitation we’ve come to associate with the manufacture of our food products. As processes will vary across red meats, poultry, and seafood, we will focus individual articles on each topic to cover the scope of each sector’s needs, however, we have previously covered how the meat industry can enhance sustainability in their processes, challenges associated with wastewater recycling, and how industrial wastewater treatment companies can help.

In addition to helping companies meet their environmental targets and legal discharge requirements, industrial wastewater treatment companies can also help meat and slaughterhouse businesses to become more sustainable and energy-efficient, as well as reduce their overall operational costs. Alongside this, by recovering resources from wastewater, such as minerals and biogas, businesses can even bring in new revenue streams as the recovered nutrients can be reused across the supply chain. Common uses include dewatered fertilisers, soil conditioners, and even fuel that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels (this method of energy conservation has been used for many years!).  

Here are a few best practice examples of how these processes can work in practice:

Scenario 1: Beef Processing Plant

If we imagine a large beef processing plant, some of the wastewater outputs could be in the region of 800 – 1000 litres of wastewater per animal – this is because wastewater is produced during all internal and external washing, cleaning, and more. Alongside this, as cows are very large animals, one of the main pollutants present in the wastewater will be blood, which on average has the highest chemical oxygen demand (COD) reading of any other process in this processing cycle. Research even shows that should the blood from a single cow be discharged into water streams untreated, it would be the equivalent of releasing the sewage produced by 50 people in one day in terms of its environmental impact! This helps highlight the significant impact wastewater treatment can have on our environment as well as showing the dangers associated with poor wastewater management. 

As the LAT Unit wastewater treatment plants can be specially modified for your on-site needs, their capacity can be increased by having multiple LAT Units working together. On average, a single plant can treat up to 5,000m3 per day (or approximately the wastewater produced by 5000 cows!). Our food industry wastewater treatment case studies average out at up to 95% clean water recovery, and further case studies even show a 70% reduction in energy use, our example beef processing plant would be able to achieve a significant reduction in its operational costs – allowing the business to lower their prices and still make more profit! Alongside this, any excess skin, horns, bones, and other non-edible parts can be collected and the nutrients extracted. Bone and horn tissue contain important minerals and elements such as phosphorous, magnesium, and sulfur which are widely used in agriculture to support healthy crop growth. By recovering these, the beef processing plant can sell on to other parts of the supply chain. 

Scenario 2: Pork Meat Processing

Similar to our beef processing plant, a pork slaughterhouse will deal with many of the same contaminants in its wastewater, however, although pigs are smaller animals, more of them are processed with worldwide estimates showing around 3.8 million pigs are slaughtered every day (compared to 900,000 cows). Pork processing plants also tend to use more hot and boiling water as boiling is usually one of the main steps of in processing, meaning the plants have a large energy requirement. 

Installing the LAT Unit, our pork processing plant can already supply an abundance of waste heat energy to power the wastewater treatment plant, helping significantly reduce its energy input by effectively using the heat from one process to power two! Alongside this, as the LAT Unit can be remotely monitored 24/7, the teams will have full visibility of the performance of the treatment plant (including output quality) all year around – helping make adjustments as needed during colder months (depending on the size and location of the plant, though the LAT Unit is capable of maintaining its efficiency in temperatures as low as -25°C (-13°F) without compromising the treatment process

Scenario 3: Lamb Processing Plant

Unlike pork and beef, lamb production usually produces wastewater with very high fat, oils, and grease (FOG) content, making it trickier to treat not only as FOG float to the top but because biological additives are required to help break down the oils to their elemental form. Once broken down, however, we can recover a range of vitamins from the wastewater including vitamin A (used in health and wellness products), vitamin D (used in medicines), vitamin E (used as a natural antioxidant), and vitamin K (used in the pet food industry).

With all of this taken into consideration, our team of engineers will be able to provide a more specialised approach to your wastewater treatment plant setup, including accounting for additives added to the wastewater, extraction of solids, recovery of dissolved particles, and more. This will ensure a high level of clean water recovery alongside the recycling of water and nutrients for further use.

Scenario 4: Venison Meat Processing 

As venison (meat from deer or antelope) is a leaner meat, there are fewer FOG substances to consider, however, venison is usually much higher in protein compared to other red meats, making it more diverse in amino acids and vitamins. Similar to cattle, deer and antelope also have antlers that contain additional bone tissue containing a range of useful elements that can be recovered for further use. 

Venison meat also contains more water compared to other meats, which can add to rates of wastewater as a result of processing, however, deer are not slaughtered in as high numbers as cattle so wastewater overall at these processing plants tends to be lower and more manageable. Therefore, should a processing plant deal with more than one type of meat on-site, our team will ensure that their LAT Unit configuration is able to manage a range of pollutants in line with the varying inflow levels expected at different types of the year. 

How to Choose the Right Industrial Wastewater Treatment Company for Your Meat Processing Site 

When choosing an industrial wastewater treatment company for your meat processing plant, it is important to consider the following factors:

The company’s experience 

Does the company have previous experience in treating similar chemicals and compounds to those you are dealing with and can they provide recommendations for improving your internal processes?

Understanding of your requirements 

Does the company understand your industry and business practices and how flexible can their solution be to future changes down the line?

The company’s technology & support 

Alongside providing excellent stability and uptime, can the company provide additional on-site support as required and do they offer servicing? Having cutting-edge technology is great, but support will really make the difference! 

Cost

Ultimately, a meat processing plant is a business with overheads and other operational costs! While it may be attractive to go with the lowest offer, consider the long-term implications and whether higher initial costs can result in savings that will pay for themselves in the long run!

Contact The LAT Water Team

If you’re looking for a new industrial wastewater treatment provider with modern technology and around-the-clock support, contact our team on +44 (0)1635 635900 or by emailing info@latwater.com. Download our corporate brochure for more details about our sustainable wastewater treatment solutions and check out the rest of our blog for more insights into the work that we do.

Elias Elia
31st Oct 2023