Limestone byproducts for food create niche market
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by Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor
In a challenging economy, creating additional niche markets for businesses can help boost revenue sources and expand outlets for products.
Louisville, Ky.-based North American Limestone Corp. (NALC) has done just that now that its 243 Complex Lime Facility has been recognized by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) as a Certified Safe Feed/Safe Food Facility.
NALC supplies calcium carbonate from ground limestone to the animal feed industry for applications such as poultry grit and calcium supplements for livestock and pet feed. At Aggregates Manager press time, NALC was the only Indiana supplier of animal feed-grade calcium carbonate to operate a Certified Safe Feed/Safe Food Facility.
Sonya Cowles, assistant plant manager for the NALC 243 Complex Lime Facility, was responsible for the implementing, maintaining, and monitoring of the quality control program for this application.
“New demand is important for every business, and the aggregates industry is no different,” Stephen McLean, vice president of business development at NALC, tells Aggregates Manager. “Given the challenges with the national economy, uncertain infrastructure spending, and unpredictable weather, we believe the ‘animal feed’ segment can be a compelling outlet for those producers that have the appropriate geology, available capital, and experienced personnel necessary to successfully participate in the market. We consider ‘animal feed’ to be one [of] many ‘ground calcium carbonate,’ or fine grind, opportunities.”
McLean expects the animal feed market for aggregates to grow. He says calcium carbonate as an animal feed supplement is “certainly” a niche market. “As the demand for food continues to increase with population growth, we expect this to be an exciting segment for NALC for many years to come,” McLean notes.
Using limestone’s byproduct, calcium carbonate, in animal food may sound unusual or even alarming to people not familiar with the agriculture livestock marketplace. However, like humans, animals need calcium — that is calcium carbonate — as part of a healthy diet, McLean points out. “Calcium has many benefits that extend beyond a healthy bone structure,” he says. “Different animals (turkeys, beef cattle, chickens, swine, etc.) require different amounts and different ‘mixtures’ of ground calcium carbonate in order to ensure a healthy diet.”
From a demand standpoint, this is attractive, McLean says, because animals need to eat every day. That means this market is not susceptible to “cycles” in the same way that road funding and seasonal construction activities are.
However, the significance of the certification goes beyond NALC simply wanting to sell more calcium carbonate products. “The Safe Feed/Safe Food program seal really indicates that the food product being consumed was derived from animals fed exclusively feed produced in a certified facility,” McLean explains. “It demonstrates that we will provide the animal feed market with the highest confidence in the quality of the calcium carbonate supplied by North American Limestone.”
The Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program, a voluntary, third party-certified initiative established in 2004 by the American Feed Industry Association that has been designed for feed mills and feed- and ingredient-related facilities in the United States and Canada, institutes comprehensive standards of excellence that go beyond regulations to maximize food and feed safety. McLean says, as a part of this, every operator must have a high-performing quality control plan and team with access to the necessary sophisticated — and often very expensive — equipment required for quality control testing.
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