University of Minnesota
Minnesota Technical Assistance Program

Sunny Fresh Foods

EggsThe City of Monticello’s wastewater treatment plant discharges its treated water into the Mississippi River, which is classified as an impaired water. The publicly owned treatment works (POTW) superintendent knew his plant faced a phosphorus effluent limit when its permit came up for renewal so he ramped up efforts to decrease phosphorus. He approached Sunny Fresh Foods Inc., a food processor that prepares eggs, and asked what the company could do to reduce its phosphorus effluent.

The company began by looking at its cleaning and sanitizing chemicals. ”We enlisted our vendor’s help and went chemical by chemical, asking if we could eliminate, substitute or reduce the phosphoric acid,” said Carrie Heitz, Sunny Fresh environmental manager. “The vendor was more than willing to work with us.”

Over 12 to 18 months, the company changed its cleaning and sanitizing chemicals to low- or no phosphorus products. Some of the cleaners were more expensive, but the company thought the expense was worth it. As a result of the change, phosphorus in the company’s wastewater effluent was reduced 80 percent. The POTW no longer needs to manage the extra 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of phosphorus a year. Due to process changes, Sunny Fresh also decreased biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) 14 percent and total suspended solids (TSS) 26 percent in the past year.

Sunny Fresh Foods was one of six companies honored with a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for business performance excellence in April. The company’s environmental performance was reviewed as part of the site visit application process.

Sunny Fresh, a Cargill subsidiary, shared its phosphorus reduction efforts within the corporate network. The Sunny Fresh facilities in Iowa and Michigan have duplicated the changes at their own facilities.

The company regrets that it will never be completely phosphorus free. The chickens insist on using phosphorus to build their eggs.

Work with your vendors to reduce phosphorus effluent or contact MnTAP for assistance. More information is available on our phosphorus reduction Web page.

This article was originally published in the 2006 Summer/Fall issue of the Source.

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