Cleaning and sanitizing meat- and poultry-processing facilities is not an optional practice. There are microorganisms present that can cause product spoilage and foodborne illness, which makes sanitizing essential. Chemicals are the easiest, most-effective methods of cleaning and sanitizing meat plants, but with the increased push toward being more “green” or Earth-friendly, sanitation engineers are challenged to consider alternative options.

Elis Owens, Ph.D., senior chemist/microbiologist for Henderson, Colorado-based Birko, says there are “green” methods that sanitation crews can employ while performing their required tasks at meat and poultry facilities.

  • Picking up as much solid debris before starting wash-down
  • Using water-saving spray nozzles and good practices to minimize water use
  • Using enough chemical for effective cleaning without over use leading to excess discharge into the environment
  • Eliminating cleaning formulations with known environmentally harmful components such as 2-butoxy ethanol or nonyl phenol ethoxylates
  • Using environmentally friendly sanitizers, such as peroxyacetic acid
  • Using automated cleaning systems that minimize the volume of water and chemical needed for a cleaning process.

Eliminating chemical use is not a viable option in meat and poultry plants because they are the best way to get the environment clean; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. Owens explains, “A ‘green’ or environmentally friendly cleaning or sanitation product is one that breaks down readily in the environment during the waste-water treatment process to leave no toxic residues yet is still an effective cleaner or sanitizer that is cost effective to use.”

Birko offers a full line of sanitation products for meat and poultry plants that fit well into a sustainable operation. Birko offers a product range that is 100-percent free of 2-butoxy ethanol and Di ethanolamine (both potential carcinogens). The company has also eliminated nonyl phenol ethoxylates from all products, which are reported to function as estrogen analogs in the environment causing gender ambiguity in fish and aquatic amphibians.

“We also offer sodium-free sanitation and process chemicals for customers who need to eliminate or reduce salt in their waste water,” Owens says. “Our products are also shipped as a concentrated formula to minimize the volume that must be shipped. For larger customers, use of our blend on-site formulation and dispensing systems can reduce the volume of product that has to be shipped.”

“Green-conscious” cleaning crews can also look for the recycled symbol on renewable types of materials, including paper products, and try to avoid aerosols when using cleaning products. Checking for the biodegradability of products and using products that can be released via an automatic dispensing system, including sanitation liquids and soaps, can result in the use of more environmentally sustainable products by cleaning and sanitizing crews. 

“While sustainability is important, at this time efficacy and cost remain the primary factors that influence our customers purchasing decisions in regards to sanitation products,” Owens explains.

M+P’s Sanitation Tips are to be used only as guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing processing facilities. Specific issues and questions should be addressed by a sanitation crew supervisor.