So far, a huge amount of the government’s lavish support for biofuel has ended up on the bottom line of Archer Daniels Midland, the king of industrially produced, environmentally ruinous corn.
Now another type of model corporate citizen is in line for a cut of the action: huge-scale confined-animal feedlot operation (CAFO) players like Tyson and Smithfield.
This AP story details the efforts of a couple of oil men to set up a biodiesel plant outside of a Missouri industrial chicken-processing plant owned by Tyson, the world’s largest meat producer. The plan: to transform chicken fat into biodiesel.
Now, at first glance the effort might seem admirable: The plant would transform a waste product into fuel. There’s an economic case, too: chicken fat goes for 19 cents a pound, compared to 33 cents for soybean oil, now the dominant feedstock (90 percent market share) for biodiesel.
But the chicken fat in question isn’t currently going into a landfill; it’s being “used as a cheap ingredient in pet food, soap, and other products.”
Moreover, if this and other projects like it take off, the price fetched by chicken fat will rise. And that means more profitability for industrial feedlots — horrific businesses in environmental, social, and animal welfare terms.
And the huge feedlot operators aren’t only profiting by selling fat for biodiesel. They’re also getting into the production game. The AP article reports that Tyson, Purdue, and Smithfield are all rolling out biodiesel initiatives.
How do government subsidies come into play? The AP article states it clearly: “Biodiesel costs about $1 a gallon more to produce than conventional diesel, but federal tax breaks for fuel distributors help hide that cost from consumers.”
This is clearly a case of a worthy goal — reducing oil consumption — being manipulated for an unsavory end: increasing the rewards of the most destructive animal farming. Say no to CAFO-diesel.