Kentucky is seeing a surge in the number of permits being issued to compost dead animals.
Washington County began offering an animal composting service in April. Oldham County plans to start doing the same next month
“This is the ultimate recycling,” Oldham County Animal Control Director Barbara Rosenman told The Courier-Journal.
“It’s as green as it gets.”
It’s also a cheap and safe way to dispose of dead livestock and road kill, said Steve Higgins, an animal compost expert and the director of environmental compliance for the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture.
Animal composting has been allowed in Kentucky for more than a decade, but state lawmakers eased the process this year by removing a requirement that large animals be cut up before composting.
In Kentucky, 14 farmers or groups have permits from the state veterinarian’s office to compost animals. And across the nation, interest in composting has been growing, especially since 2008, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration instituted stricter regulations that targeted mad cow disease and required companies to remove the brain and spinal cord of cows over 30 months old before using the carcass to make other materials.
Dead animals, including livestock and road kill, typically are taken to landfills, incinerators or rendering plants. Some are buried. Some are just left unattended to decompose, which can pollute water.
In animal composting, carcasses are buried above ground, using wooden material that has micro-organisms that eat the flesh and generate heat.
The bacteria scrubs the air so “people, dogs and buzzards can’t smell” the carcass, Higgins said. “We’ve done this for years, and we haven’t attracted a critter.”
Within six months, the animal carcass turns into a dark mulch-type materia and a few brittle bones. It can be used as mulch or used on future composting piles.
Higgins said he started composting animals at UK’s “experiment station” a farm in Versailles several years ago but began doing it on a wider scale last year after some rendering companies stopped picking up dead livestock and state agriculture officials voiced concern about options for farmers.