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State and local officials break ground for a sustainable resource facility at Nicholas Meat in Loganton, Pa. The facility will allow the company to reuse 90% of the wastewater generated by its cattle processing plant, in addition to generating energy through biogas and reducing odor and truck traffic in the area.

As an avid hunter and angler, Brian Miller has always considered himself a steward of the environment.

The lifelong resident of Pennsylvania’s Sugar Valley said he cherishes the natural beauty of the area, so protecting it is a priority.

That’s why Miller, as director of sustainability at Nicholas Meat in Loganton, says he has a personal interest in a new project designed to protect the environment and significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

On May 26, the company held a groundbreaking ceremony for a sustainable resource facility that Miller said will also remedy an issue that caused the plant to temporarily close last winter.

Nicholas Meat processes hundreds of dairy cull cows and bulls daily, generating more than 150,000 gallons of residual waste — mainly wash water — each day.

Currently, the plant has storage capacity for 3.5 million gallons of residual waste, which is eventually applied to nearby fields via shallow disc injection.

However, that practice generated complaints from some neighbors, and in February the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered the plant to cease application of processing waste on snow-covered fields.

As a result, Nicholas Meat was forced to close its plant for six days at a considerable cost, according to Miller, while fields were covered in snow.

Construction of the sustainable resource facility will take two years, and when it’s complete Miller said the plant will be able to recover 90% of its wastewater, significantly reducing the need for land application. The project’s estimated $50 million cost will be funded entirely by Nicholas Meat.

“I think we’ve grown to the point where we have the capital to do it on our own. We have pride in that and the fact there will be no burden on taxpayers to pay for this,” Miller said. “I believe the construction of the facility is ethically and environmentally the most meaningful improvement we can make to demonstrate our commitment to the future.”

'A Bold Approach'

In addition, the facility will convert the plant’s existing waste stream into green energy from biogas — a byproduct of anaerobic digestion containing 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide. The waste-to-energy process will be used to power the plant’s boilers, eliminating the need for propane.

“This has been a long road, and we’re very excited,” Miller said. “Anaerobic digestion has been around on dairy farms for years, and there are plants that recycle water. But to put the two together with an aggressive goal of reusing 90% of the wastewater, it’s a very cutting-edge plan.”

The May 26 groundbreaking was attended by several public officials, including state Ag Secretary Russell Redding, who called the project a “bold approach.”

Once fully operational, the facility will reduce truck traffic at Nicholas Meat, minimize odors, create renewable energy, decrease the company’s carbon footprint and capture greenhouse gases.

Miller added the facility is being built to accommodate growth at the plant, which currently has 350 employees and 150 contract workers.

As an environmental offset for the construction, Nicholas Meat will plant a 12-acre conservation area with 2,500 trees and a variety of native wetland grasses for wildlife. The tract will be protected with a permanent conservation covenant.Photo provided by Nicholas Meat

State and local officials break ground for a sustainable resource facility at Nicholas Meat in Loganton, Pa. The facility will allow the company to reuse 90% of the wastewater generated by its cattle processing plant, in addition to generating energy through biogas and reducing odor and truck traffic in the area.

Staff Reporter

Tom Venesky is a staff reporter for Lancaster Farming. He can be reached at tvenesky@lancasterfarming.com

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