5th quarter flow and use


Executive Summary:

An investigation of English cattle and sheep slaughtering and processing sectors has shown that in 2011/2012 the proportion of a beast being harvested and packed for human consumption, as an estimation of live-weight, increased by approximately 10%. The average percentage by weight of a live beast that is being consumed by humans has increased from approximately 38% in 2006 to 48% in 2012 with some plants sending as much as 59% to human edible. During the same period, the average percentage of a sheep or lamb being consumed improved from 46% to 53% of the live weight of an animal.

In the past four years the markets have changed significantly, due to the new Animal By-Product (ABP) regulations (see Appendix 2) and improved export opportunities. An increase in consumption of 5th quarter products i.e. red offals and edible co-products (ECP), soft bones and tendons as well as the opportunities to use the ABP for pet-food, fertilizer and energy generation is financially and environmentally benefitting the meat industry. The larger abattoirs sell the majority of their fifth quarter products either directly to the home market or vacuum packed and/or frozen to the export market rather than disposing of these products for rendering or pet food.

In the previous carbon footprint work [1] most of the non-carcase meat and few of these non-meat products including offal, rumen contents, hides, edible co products, fat and bone were included in the calculation. Even when the tallow is used to produce energy, the meat received no offset credit from the energy generated. In 2012 an estimated extra 10% of the live weight of a bovine animal is being consumed when compared with 2008. This has the effect of reducing the carbon footprint by over one quarter (26%).

In 2006 [2], a review of red meat offal and by-products could not collect information on the weight of   ABP going as Category 1 (Cat 1) or Category 3 (Cat 3).  However, the prices published for ABP collection were the same for Cat 1 and Cat 3 ABP.  Visits to several large and small abattoirs confirmed the anecdotes that most FBO’s combined material suitable for petfood or Cat 3 material with Cat 1 material and sent all of it to be rendered as a Cat 1 ABP. Approximately 2% of the best fat was been collected as fat fit for human consumption (FFHC).  Some product was also going as petfood although there are no accurate estimates. It was thought that tripe, thin and thick skirt and even flanks in some cases tended to be sent to petfood manufacturers.  Although UK sourced product for pet food was low in price, the petfood manufacturers wanted the flexibility to export product, and up until 2006, due to the export ban this was not possible with U.K. meat. Since 2006, the percentage of product being sent as Cat 3 ABP has increased  to approximately 20% for cattle and sheep including fat for bio-fuel and product going for wet or dry petfood, pharmaceuticals, fashion, automotive, energy, cement production, building materials, oleochem e.g. soaps, lipsticks, bio-fuels and pharmaceuticals  etc. rather than being rendered as a Cat 1 ABP.

The industry has also benefited by a reduction in percentage of the weight of material from live cattle classified as specified risk material (SRM). It has reduced by 6 percentage points from 16.4% to 10.5%. This could be a further 50% lower if abattoirs empty the cattle intestines. The percentage of the weight of material that is SRM from ovine live animals is less than 1 % for lambs or 6.5% for ewes and rams. The amount of ABP going to Cat 1 which used to mean complete destruction with little carbon benefits has been conservatively calculated to have reduced by 6% percentile points from 19% [3] to 13% of the carcase weight. Rendering ABPs as Cat 1 required a certain amount of energy however the process was sustainable with the production of tallow, however the resulting meat and bone meal (MBM) had no suitable markets and much of it went to landfill. Recently the by-products from Cat 1 rendering tend to go as a biofuel displacing coal and petro carbons which has additional benefits due to the consequential decreases in their carbon footprint.

It was stated that current fluctuating economics are such that still a minority of the large companies and many of the medium and smaller abattoirs will send (for a positive financial benefit) much of the green offal (tripes and hooves) and sheep heads as well as some red offals to pet-food or the renderers rather than selling it for human consumption. This should be the focus of further assistance to increase efficiencies and further improve yield to reduce the industr’s carbon footprint.

[1] EBLEX Change in the air: The English beef and sheep production roadmap – Phase 1

Benchmarks the industr’s environmental impact in terms of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and energy use, and outlines how this can be reduced (published November 2009).

[2] A Review Of The Red Meat Offal & By-Products Industry Conducted For The English Beef & Lamb Executive (EBLEX) By MLC Industry Consulting March 2006

[3] This is believed to be a conservative estimate as some experts estimated that up to 25% of the bovine live weight was rendered in 2006.

Beef & Lamb
Project code:
01 October 2011 - 30 September 2012
AHDB Beef & Lamb
AHDB sector cost:
Total project value:
Project leader:



About this project

The Problem:

A number of studies have been done looking at the use of by-products in the beef and sheep sector. In 1997 the MLC and Leatherhead Food RA carried out an “audit of bovine and ovine slaughter and by-products sector (ruminant products audit).  Another review of the Red Meat Offal and By-Products Industry was carried out in 2005/2006 by MLC industry consulting commissioned by EBLEX. Three years later in 2009 WRAP commissioned the IGD and MLCSL to compile a fresh meat resource map looking at the red and white meat supply chain to identify and quantify how each animal is utilised in order to generate data on product waste, packaging waste, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008-10 MLCSL were also involved with adding value to the 5th quarter in Scotland. These studies are believed to be out of date.

Project Aims:

  • To explore current Animal by-product activity in the industry. This will prove the efficacy of the activity that is being done on 5th quarter and export at the moment.
  • To ascertain where and which products are still not attracting a favourable economic price and to understand the obstacles and so identify the top opportunities for adding value .
  • To explore a way of setting up an automated regular data collection. By understanding where 5th quarter products are going whether for human consumption, home or export, pet food rendering and the values they are earning will help AHDB market intelligence as well as giving more detail to the carbon foot printing activity which is ongoing.
  • To work with EBLEX, Cranfield and others (including FABRA) to come up with a sustainable hierarchy of products and processes.


To use structured interviews with a sample of industry players and the trade associations to estimate the volumes of animal products entering various uses and waste streams.


  • A review to enable EBLEX to target further improvement activities in the areas it is most needed.
  • A methodology for AHDB Market Intelligence to collect information on an ongoing basis.
  • information to support decision making for businesses on how to manage waste.
  • Industry data to inform more meaningful discussion on the carbon footprint of ruminant products.