If passersby driving on U.S. Highway 30 notice a green glow coming from Cargill’s Schuyler, Neb., processing facility, there is no need to worry. That is because the glow is probably due to the environmental and dollar cost-saving benefits being generated from $4.2 million in recently completed lighting and boiler upgrades inside the half-million-square-foot plant.

A facility wide investment in the most efficient fluorescent lighting available is providing better quality lighting, reducing utility costs and lowering annual electricity usage by more than 2 million kilowatt hours. That is enough electricity savings to provide power to 174 houses for an entire year. The newly installed boiler will improve the plant’s steam efficiency by nearly 11 percent, reducing energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to the aging boiler it replaced.

“We are always looking for ways to improve our operation and reduce our carbon footprint and overall environmental impact,” stated Steve Thompson, vice president and general manager of the Cargill Beef processing facility at Schuyler. “Since this facility was acquired by Cargill in 1987, we have continuously made investments to ensure the highest levels of workplace safety, food safety, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. The payback from reduced utility costs justifies investments such as this from a business standpoint, in addition to supporting our efforts to always be a good citizen and improve communities where Cargill operates.”

In addition to the facility’s new lighting and boiler system, Cargill’s Schuyler plant adopted a facility wide, behavior-based, energy management system two years ago, with a resulting 4 percent improvement in electrical efficiency, a 5 percent increase in fuel efficiency, and a significant 7 percent reduction in water use.

“It is truly exciting to witness employees embracing energy and resource improvements when we challenge them with, and acknowledge them for, coming up with solutions,” said Thompson. “The way people think about the plant’s resource utilization has been redefined forever. Cargill employees come up with great resource improvement ideas that would have never surfaced prior to establishing this process.”

Cargill’s Schuyler beef processing facility pioneered renewable energy recovery and utilization a decade ago when it upgraded the wastewater treatment system with anaerobic digesters that allow the plant to recover all of the biogas produced to treat waste water. Capturing the methane in the biogas significantly reduces GHG emissions, but it is also a valuable fuel source. The biogas fuel provides 30 percent of the plant’s total fuel needs, reducing natural gas demand equal to the amount consumed annually by 2,400 residential users.

On an annual basis, the facility also recycles nearly 1,000 tons of cardboard, more than 200 tons of metal and 5,600 gallons of used oil, while also providing more than 85 million gallons of treated water to local farmers for irrigation. Environmental impact is further minimized by purchasing the vast majority of cattle processed at the facility from producers within 125-mile radius of the facility.

“These are all examples of how efficiency upgrades and environmental improvement projects can be good for the environment, good for the overall business model we use to operate our Schuyler facility and good for communities,” explained Scott Hartter, Cargill Meat Solutions vice president for environment, health and safety. “As we have seen energy cost increases outpace other operating costs, it is continually more attractive to invest in our energy and resource infrastructure, which also helps us to achieve carbon efficiency improvements.”

“Being part of the agricultural complex that feeds millions of people in the U.S. and internationally, we believe it is vital to respect the resources we use to produce beef,” stated Thompson. “Land, water and air contribute to the success of American agriculture, and we will never take them for granted.”

Cargill’s Schuyler beef processing facility is where more than 2,000 people work daily, five-days-per-week, processing approximately 1 million head of cattle annually, supplying much of the nation’s beef.

Source: Cargill Meat Solutions