The American mink (Neovison vison) has been primarily bred for commercial fur production, highly prized for its use in clothing and the pelt is traded on the global market as dried skin. Mink farming and processing generates a substantial volume of mink fat. Mink fat is commonly disposed or used as crab bait, organic compost, rendered and sold as low-grade oil used in livestock feed rations and other low value supplies of minimal economic benefit to the industry. It can however be utilized in high value cosmetics and lather treatments. In 2014, the mink industry accounted for $140 million of Nova Scotia’s economy.


With a 60% price drop in recent years due to world-wide oversupply, weaker demand and incidence of the Aleutian disease in mink, generating alternative source of income for mink farmers from by-products is a laudable venture. In addition, in 2016 the Provincial Government of Nova Scotia enacted legislation to force removal of all mink waste off farm to specific processors of these wastes. This created additional economic burden on the industry as a whole. At the time of the legislation on mink waste, there were two main outlets for manure (liquid and solid), waste food, and carcasses. These had both been provided funding through ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), in anticipation of the up-coming environmental legislation, one being a composting facility and one an anaerobic digester. However, even the combination of these two facilities could not service all producers and the digester at least was not running optimally with this combination of inputs. A solution was sought that would perhaps re-distribute the wastes to better optimize these processes, while possibly adding an additional and separate processing method to manage the carcasses and fats, which are not suited to the existing systems. Additionally, to try to extract more value from mink by-products in order to enhance the economics of waste management.
On both the composting and digestion side, removal of key challenging mink by-products and direction to other processes, not only will enhance the effectiveness of these two core processes, but provides other potential revenue or value addition streams for disposal. Some novel markets explored here included the use as biomass pellets, and efficacy as plant growth medium, though there may be a concern on contamination in the latter, and efficacy of AD kill would need to be checked. Further refinement of carcass hydrolysate production and market options for this product should also be explored.

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