Scottish processors warned over water wastage

A Scottish water supplier has claimed that red meat businesses in Scotland are wasting thousands of litres of water and could reduce their usage by around 30%.

Business Stream, a non-domestic water supplier, said that the red meat processing sector in Scotland could save up to 300 litres of water per animal per year by implementing better practices and increased water efficiency.

The claim came after the company analysed the average water used during red meat processing and compared the results to the sector’s best-practice usage.

It said that cattle processing uses an average of 1,000 litres of water every year per annum, while pig and sheep processing used 230 litres and 150 litres of water per animal per year, which they say could be reduced by 30% and 33% respectively.

Mark Powles, chief executive of Business Stream, said: “Red meat and poultry processing uses a lot of water and there is a real opportunity for it to lead the way in good water practice. There are a host of water efficiency services available which can benefit businesses and, importantly, these are very cost-efficient and can lead to demonstrable financial savings.   

“It often only requires small, low-cost changes within an organisation for significant savings to be achieved, to the benefit of everyone. Our customers can do some of these themselves, and Business Stream can help with the rest.”

He said that water efficiency could contribute to the financial performance of a company, but was often overlooked.

However, Stephen Doran, communications and events manager at QMS said that its own research showed the figures to be around 461 litres of water per cattle at slaughter and around 51 litres for each sheep slaughtered.

He said: “We’ve actually put a lot of work with the other levy bodies into reducing resource usage in processing plants and, last year, published a guide on water and how to reduce the amount used. This formed part of the larger body of work to improve efficiency and profitability in the red meat processing sector.”

He told MTJ that processors were looking at the ongoing task of increasing efficiency from water usage to electricity, effluent control and improved carcase utilisation as this helped to offset tighter margins.

Abattoirs and processors have to comply with strict hygiene standards which require large amounts of water for all washing and cleaning operations. However, increasing environmental concern has seen initiatives put in place to encourage a reduction in water consumption in meat slaughtering and processing and encourage better resource management. This includes a voluntary Federation House Commitment (FHC) agreement in which the food and drinks industry has agreed to reduce its water usage by 20% by 2020, against a 2007 baseline. By January 2011, only two integrated meat compaies had signed up to the agreement.

Surveys have shown that increasing the management of water, from good site maintenance, which includes having an accurate water distribution plan for the building and sub-metres to monitor water usage at point-of-use, as well as an efficient cleaning producure, can help to minimise wastage.

Business Stream was launched in 2008. It allows businesses to check their water consumption using a benchmarking tool, to see how it compares to other businesses and rivals. Business Stream can then provide recommendations to implement improved water efficiency measures, which it says can help them make significant financial and environmental savings, as the majority of Scottish businesses pay for water on consumption.

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