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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

North American Renderers Association presents Custer its highest honor

The North American Renderers Association has presented its highest honor, the Don Franco Distinguished Service Award, to Kevin Custer for his leadership and longtime commitment to the rendering industry, NARA, and to the association’s research and related programs.

The award recognizes outstanding work on behalf of the rendering industry in science, policy, marketing, or communications and is presented to a member, staff, or friend of NARA “for their exceptional contribution and service on behalf of the rendering industry,” NARA stated.


Custer attended Iowa State University and began his career in animal agriculture in 1979, joining the rendering industry in 1988.

“Kevin’s passion for rendering is evident in the years of time and effort he has committed to NARA and as a member of the board of directors of the industry’s research foundation, The Fats and Proteins Research Foundation,” NARA stated. “He was influential in the formation of the Animal Protein Producers Industry organization, which promotes biosecurity and training programs. Under Kevin’s leadership, APPI became a nonprofit organization in 1994. He was a tireless advocate for the value of APPI’s monitoring programs and was the first chairman of the APPI board of directors, as was the award’s namesake, Don Franco.”

Custer was also instrumental during the first U.S. outbreak of mad cow disease. “Despite not even working for a cattle renderer at the time of the outbreak, Kevin joined other NARA members to work cooperatively with the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C., to develop an effective strategy to contain and manage [mad cow disease] that led to critical good manufacturing practices that are still in use today,” stated NARA.

Before his recent retirement, Custer was the rendering business manager at Kemin Nutrisurance. He continues to serve the rendering industry as a member of the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation board of directors and consults with industry members seeking his expertise.

“Kevin’s greatest legacy and contribution can be seen in the number of lives he has touched as a mentor and friend to up-and-coming renderers who will lead the industry in the decades ahead,” NARA stated.

The award namesake, Franco, passed away in 2015 and was a respected and influential leader as NARA’s vice president for scientific services and president of the Animal Protein Producers Industry organization. He was one of the editors of The Original Recyclers published by NARA in 1996 and was a contributing author to Essential Rendering in 2006.

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