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Recycling Laboratory Meat, Sample Waste by Composting

Food Safety and Inspection Service


David Goldman, Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Health and Science, FSIS   


Reduce the amount of meat waste going to landfills by composting discarded portions of laboratory samples. The Western Laboratory receives over 4,000 meat samples for chemistry analysis each year as part of the FSIS national sampling program to ensure meat products are safe. The size of each sample is mandated to ensure that the sampling protocol is valid.  However, only a small portion of each sample is actually analyzed by the laboratory. The remaining sample (called a reserve sample) is frozen and stored at the laboratory in case further analysis is required. Once per month, the reserve samples that are no longer needed are discarded with the regular solid waste. The FSIS Western Laboratory is planning to pilot a program to compost the meat samples at a commercial facility  This will result in recycling approximately 400 to 600 lbs. of meat waste per month as compost material, which will help conserve existing landfill space, reduce the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions generated, and produce an inexpensive alternative to commercial fertilizers.

Activity 1

Assess which meat samples, if any, are suitable for composting based on local regulatory and composting facility requirements.

Complete by June 2013.

Activity 2

Identify and obtain contract with a composting service provider. Determine pick-up schedule and procure necessary collection bins and supplies. 

Complete by June 2013.

Activity 3

Write article for The Beacon (FSIS internal newsletter) about meat composting project.

Complete by July 2013.

Activity 4

Write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that clearly outlines sample discard, collection, storage, and labeling procedures. Develop metrics to document and track solid waste diversion (pounds per month). Then, train laboratory employees on the SOP in preparation for a 1-month trial run. 

Complete by September 2013.

Activity 5

Conduct a 1-month pilot and then evaluate the reserve meat sample discard SOP and measurement criteria. Take necessary steps to modify SOP as needed. Write Beacon article about results of pilot project.

Complete by November 2013.

Activity 6

Assemble FSIS Laboratory Committee to assess feasibility of extending the reserve meat sample composting program to the other FSIS Laboratories and to other types of chemistry and microbiology meat sample waste processes. 

Complete by June FY 2014.