Minnesota ranks among the top ten states in nearly every livestock production sector, including red meat production (4th), hogs (3rd), milk (6th), chickens (10th), and turkeys (1st). Animal agriculture contributes $10 billion to Minnesota’s economy, including more than $4 billion in annual farmgate sales and more than $5 billion in added value.

MANURE

Fab fertilizer

Livestock manure returns plant nutrients and organic matter to the soil, completing the nutrient cycle and creating a self-sustaining agricultural system. But these days, manure isn’t just for fertilizer.

Powerful dung

Manure makes good fuel. A Benson, Minn., company is building a power plant that will generate 50 megawatts of renewable energy from turkey litter, beginning in 2007. The power plant will use 500,000 tons of turkey manure a year.

Gas to electricity

Methane generated from dairy manure through anaerobic digestion is being used on large Midwest livestock farms to make electricity. Methane can also be collected from municipal solid waste and food processing sludge. And at least two Minnesota cities are interested in producing biogas from manure or food waste.

ANIMAL PROCESSING REMAINS

Composted critters

Composted livestock makes great fertilizer and soil amendments. A St. Cloud, Minn., company makes humus, potting soil and other garden products from composted poultry processing waste and yard waste. An Alexandria, Minn., company is making phosphorus-free turf grass fertilizer from liquefied fish and distillers grains. A commercial tilapia farm in Renville, Minn., composts dead fish for fertilizer.

Offal-ly powerful

About 60 percent of a live animal’s weight is meat cuts. Everything else — skin, bones, fat, organs, blood, trimmings — is coproduct used by rendering companies, pet food manufacturers and the leather industry. Rendered animal fat can also be used to make biodiesel fuel. AURI has helped small meat processors market their coproducts collectively, so nothing is wasted.

Greasy fuel

Recycled yellow and white greases, beef tallow and chicken fat can be burned for boiler fuel or processed for biodiesel.

Garden wool

Short wool fibers trimmed from blankets are being used to make landscaping fabric for commercial strawberry growers.

Fluff foodFeathers, a byproduct of livestock rendering, are powdered for livestock feed.

DAIRY

Whey more than waste

Whey, a watery leftover from cheese making, used to be treated as sewage. Now, it’s being made into protein concentrate and added to bakery products, infant formulas, candy and energy bars. In the future, whey may be used for oxygen-barrier coatings on food and plastics, and even to make ethanol.