Innovative approaches to extraction of valuable resources from meat industry waste

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry and Chemical Eng


Waste arising from commercial food processing activities contributes to an ever-growing waste management problem. These by-products should however be viewed as a valuable resource - for conversion into value added products - rather than a waste. This project therefore seeks to find new uses for meat industry waste, through the extraction and exploitation of valuable components for both food and non-food reuse. The proposed project brings together the waste treatment-polymer clusters of Manesiotis (Chemistry-Chemical Engineering) and McGrath (IGFS-Biological Sciences) to provide a synergistic framework of innovation in the development of sustainability within the food industry. The proposal builds on current research activity within the cognate groups and seeks to strengthen the identifiable synergies and cross-disciplinary collaboration between the EPS and MHLS researchers (who jointly have attained >£1m for the development of waste recycling technologies), and the partner company. The projects remit sits squarely within the strategic priorities of IGFS (sustainability and profitability of the food industry), MATCH PRP (development of new materials) and the Energy PRP (new feedstocks).

Waste from the meat industry consists primarily of organic residue from processed raw materials (blood, bile, bone etc). The utilisation and disposal of this waste is difficult, due to its inadequate biological stability, potentially pathogenic nature, high water content, and high level of enzymatic activity. Current products derived from these waste streams are generally low value and agricultural based e.g. fertiliser or animal feed. Indeed <12% of the gross income from the meat industry comes from by-products utilisation, despite the fact that such by-products can amount up to 70% of live animal weight. More efficient utilisation of meat by-products could this significantly enhance the profitability within the sector.

The aim of this project is to develop novel aterials and processes for the extraction, isolation and purification of valuable compounds from meat industry waste. To achieve this, team members will, in collaboration with Elmgrove Foods Ltd./Dunbia Ltd, develop and optimize an eco-innovative polymer technology for the extraction of high value compounds: The principle of using polymers is this respect has already been successfully demonstrated for the recycling of phosphorus from other agri-food waste streams. Development of such technologies will thus enable the Northern Irish food industry to add value to its business and become world leaders in sustainable solutions for food by-products.

In order to achieve our overarching aim, we have set the following objectives:
1. To identify key high value components, present in meat production waste via an extensive literature review. Bile salts, and in particular cholic acid, which is of interest to the pharmaceutical industry, have already been identified as a potential target: Positive preliminary recycling results using a first generation cholic acid polymer have been obtained.
2. To synthesise a range of molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) to generate "plastic antibody" materials with specificity for key meat waste components. Extraction efficiencies will be evaluated in lab scale experiments.
3. To scale-up MIP synthesis to kg quantities and design a pilot compound extraction/recovery platform.
4. Perform a detailed cost analysis of the process.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509541/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1942677 Studentship EP/N509541/1 01/07/2017 31/12/2020 Andrew McClure