Tyson Foods to convert poultry litter into commercial fertilizer

3.15.05

LITTLE ROCK (AP) – The old saw about meat-packing houses using everything but the squeal can apparently be applied to poultry as well – everything but the squawk.
Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, is teaming up with a Massachusetts-based company in the hope of making a profit off chicken litter.
Since January 2004, Springdale-based Tyson has been talking with Regenerated Resources LLC, a company located in Framingham, Mass., to convert poultry byproducts into a commercial fertilizer.
Simmons Foods, another poultry producer based in Siloam Springs, has also partnered with the fertilizer company, which makes Organic-Gro.
“We believe this relationship provides another outlet for poultry litter,’’ said Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods. “It adds environmental value to byproducts while reducing excess litter supplies that cannot be land-applied locally.’’
Financial details of the deal were not disclosed under an agreement, both Tyson and Regenerated Resources said.
The decision by Tyson and Simmons Foods to partner with the fertilizer firm comes at a time when the poultry industry in Northwest Arkansas is under fire and has been accused by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson of producing phosphorus runoff in watersheds in northeast Oklahoma.
The management of poultry litter, a mixture of wood chips and rice hulls that is used to soak up bird manure, has served as the basis of the claims.
Negotiations that have addressed the water quality issue have taken place between Edmondson and five companies, including Simmons and Tyson. The others are Cargill, George’s and Peterson Farms. But the talks have been contentious, as Oklahoma has threatened to file a lawsuit against the companies.
Richard Aleo, president and CEO of Regenerated Resources, said that it is safe to assume that Tyson and Simmons’ partnership with his company was motivated by the problems they have faced in recent months concerning the environment.
“I am sure that is part of it,’’ said Aleo, who co-founded the Massachusetts company in 2003 with Arkansas farmer George “Buddy’’ Black. “I am sure some of the attraction is working on the environment issue and getting the litter out of the environment.’’
Mark Simmons, chairman of Simmons Foods, said the partnership benefits both sides and the agriculture industry as a whole.
“It makes a great marketplace for growers to sell poultry litter,’’ Simmons said. “It’s a good alternative.’’
In the last couple of years, Regenerated Resources has bought chicken litter to make Organic-Gro, an all-natural fertilizer that aims to compete with its chemical-based counterparts. The company manufactures its product at its one plant in Bentonville that employs 13 people and produces 60,000 tons of fertilizer each year.
“We are trying to become the national brand of organic fertilizer. We really are designed for rapid growth,’’ Aleo said. “But we are in a competitive market.’’
Aleo said the new partnership is mutually beneficial for the companies involved.
“We are solving two environmental problems – we are providing an alternative for chemical fertilizer and solving the litter problem,’’ he said. “It’s a win-win.’’