Animal by-product classification rules processing methods and further uses

Animal by-products are a great source of nutrients when processed correctly. With right equipment and methods, every bit can be utilized to produce industrial goods, such as biodiesel and animal feed. However, if the processing methods of by-products are insufficient, they can also be a threat to health. 

The uses as well as definition of animal by-products vary across the world. In EU region, companies working with by-products must comply with several different regulations. In Finland, regulations are one of the strictest in the world. Honkajoki Oy (ltd) receives the majority of all by-products derived in Finnish meat industry. There they are refined into raw materials for several different industries in compliance with EU’s and Finland’s laws.

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Animal by-product classification rules processing methods and further uses

Meat consumption generates 250 000 tonnes of animal by-products per year in Finland. They are unfit for human consumption, but when processed correctly, a great source of important nutrients. With right equipment and methods, every bit can be used to produce industrial goods, such as biodiesel and animal feed.

In EU region, animal by-products are defined as animals or parts of animals that cannot be used in human food due to health or commercial reasons. These, for example, include animals that have died naturally as well as specific animal parts, such as hoofs, spine and brain. By-products are divided in three categories according to their risk level. Even though the majority of by-products is derived from animals whose meat can be used in human food, all by-products must be processed separately by their classification.

All by-products must be either destroyed or processed for other uses than human food. Unprocessed by-products can contain pathogens, and if not properly processed, they can spread diseases or chemical contaminants. Therefore companies working with by-products in EU area must comply with several regulations. In Finland, regulations are one of the strictest in the world.



Processing by-products is strictly regulated in Finland and EU

In the EU, Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 of the European Parliament and Council with its complementary Regulation (EU) No 142/2011 of the European Commission set rules for handling by-products at different stages of the chain from collection to their use or disposal. The regulations aim at protecting the safety of the food and feed chain as well as preventing outbreaks of epidemics. The main operating policies are uniform throughout EU member countries. However, the regulations have quite a lot of exceptions, hence practices may vary by country to some extent.

In Finland, the Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVI) oversee the compliance with regulations in their own respective regions. AVI also evaluates how monitoring of by-products have been implemented in municipalities. In addition, Finnish Food Authority oversees operations of and grants operating permissions to processing plants. Ultimately, the veterinary inspectorates and meat inspectors of Finnish Food Authority decide which by-product belongs to which category.

In addition, Finnish companies comply with the Animal By-Product Act 517/2015 and the Decree 783/2015 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on animal by-products. These regulations facilitate the practical implementation of EU by-product regulations regarding the use and disposal of by-products and animal-derived products in Finland. The law also regulates the supervisory authorities and their functions.

By-products are divided in three categories according to their risk level

Animal by-products are divided in categories 1–3, of which category 1 has the highest risk materials. As category 3 has the lowest risk level, the by-products of this category have the most possibilities for further uses. All by-products should be processed separately in their categories at all times.

Category 1 contains specific parts of ruminants, such as spinal cord and brain, as well as all healthy ruminants that have died naturally on farms. The category also contains parts and carcases of animals that are suspected of being infected by a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) or other disease communicable to humans or animals. Also animals that have been found to have residues of substances that are harmful for human health or illegal, are included in category 1.

Category 2 has lower risk level, and it contains healthy pigs and poultry that have died naturally on farms. Also animal by-products that contain higher amount of residues of authorised substances or contaminants than is permitted, are included in category 2. Category 3, which has the lowest risk level, is the widest of by-product categories. It contains all carcases, parts and other materials of healthy animals that have been slaughtered or otherwise killed for meat production.

The full by-product classification includes all by-products derived from animals as well as leftovers of meat and food industries. It rules, for example, how foodstuffs containing products of animal origin, by-products of imported animals and by-products of other than farm animals should be handled. The full classification is stated in EU regulation No 1069/2009.

From by-products to high-quality industrial products

Honkajoki Oy (ltd) is Finland’s leading processor of animal by-products. The majority of all by-products derived in Finnish meat industry are transported to Honkajoki Oy’s production facilities. There they are refined into raw materials for several different industries in compliance with EU’s and Finland’s laws.

Category 1 by-products can be used as raw materials only in products that are not used in animal feed, in contact with humans or spread on ground like fertilizers. In Honkajoki, category 1 fats are refined into raw material for biodiesel. Dry products are refined into fuel for power generation in large industrial co-incineration plants or in cement kilns.

Category 2 by-products are refined into protein products by heating and drying. The products are used to manufacture fur animal feed, and as they are rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, they are well suited in production of organic fertilizers as well. Organic fertilizers absorb into soil more easily, last longer, and improve soil quality sustainably. Refined category 2 fats can be utilized in technical uses, and the majority is production of biodiesel.

Category 3 by-products are refined into PAP products and fats for wider industrial use. The PAP products are a nutrient-rich raw material for, for example, pet foods, which can also be produced using category 3 fats. In addition, fats are widely used in, for example, biofuels, cosmetics and the pharmaceutical industry. Certain category 3 by-products can also be transported fresh to fur feed kitchens.



Safety starts at the beginning of the supply chain

Our operating area covers all of Finland except Lapland. In the area, there are tens of thousands of farms and slaughterhouses that provide us our raw materials. We collect dead animals from farms and animal-derived by-products from slaughterhouses and meat cutting plants, and transport them to our production facilities. Transportation is always organized as quickly as possible after receiving information of need for transportation, as efficient collection prevents the formation of bacteria forming and promotes hygienic and safe handling of raw materials. It is also a key factor in by-product quality management.

By-products of each category are always stored in separate containers and transported in their own conveyors and boxes. The raw materials have been separated in their categories before transportation, but all batches are carefully re-checked before production starts. Confusions in the sorting of by-products are very rare, but if one occurs, all by-products arriving in the same consignment are placed in the category with higher risk.

Hygienic production and processing methods are the basis for the production of Honkajoki Oy’s products, and each by-product category is handled by their risk classification. In the rendering process, the by-products are dried and sterilized, separating fats from protein particles. The separated fat is then purified, and the proteinaceous materials are ground, supplemented and packaged. Anyone working with by-products strictly adheres to the hygiene practices regulated in law.

We actively monitor the quality of raw materials and products, and many different microbiological analyses are carried out on the products. Samples from our product line are taken daily, and each sales batch is carefully reviewed before dispatch. We comply with the monitoring programme, which defines, for example, the studies to be carried out, the analytical and sampling method, and the preventive measures. The monitoring programme consists of statutory procedures for good hygienic practices and production methods. No product is dispatched to the customer without an approval from quality control.



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