Works' whiff of success

If you've been thinking that distinctive Affco Horotiu meat works smell isn't as bad as it used to be, you'd be right.

The Waikato meat processing company has spent about $5 million cleaning up the smell over the past three years, Affco chairman Sam Lewis says.

The odour is world-famous in Waikato and, for decades, part of the driving experience between Hamilton and Ngaruawahia. Children's catchcry from the back seat was: "Wind up the windows - quick!"

But as one Affco wit quipped at an open day for farmers and media yesterday: "It's the smell of employment". For local communities, the scent of Affco has meant a job, a pay cheque, food on the table, clothes on backs.

The smell comes mostly from the rendering plant, which turns inedible offal into meat-and-bone meal, for poultry feed, and tallow, for soap, cosmetics and other uses.

"The smell was also the product of more than 90 years of activity here," Mr Lewis said.

The technology used to clean up the air has involved putting a lid on the smell and bringing in tree bark.

Rendering happens when you put offal no-one will eat into what is essentially a big cooking pot and cook it up, operations manager Rowan Ogg said.

"Previously, when cooking, you would open the lid and the smell would come out. Now it's a closed system.

"Any gases that do get out . . . go through a biofilter, which is the size of a swimming pool and full of bark. Good bacteria grows on the bark and absorbs the smell," Mr Ogg said.

The motivation for putting the reek to rest includes good neighbourliness and corporate citizenship. Community expectations and standards are also rising.

"It's just like our overseas markets - the bar is constantly being lifted," Mr Ogg said. "When people drive past here they don't want to smell that smell."

Waikato Times