NARA is pleased to announce the 2021 “Don Franco Distinguished Service Award” has been presented to Kevin Custer for his leadership and longtime commitment to the rendering industry, NARA, and to the association’s research and related programs.
The Don Franco Distinguished Service Award is NARA’s highest honor. It recognizes truly outstanding work on behalf of the rendering industry in science, policy, marketing, or communications and is presented to a member, staff, or friend of the North American Renderers Association for their exceptional contribution and service on behalf of the rendering industry.
Kevin 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 (FPRF).
He was influential in the formation of the Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI) organization, which promotes biosecurity and training programs. Under Kevin’s leadership, APPI became a non-profit 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, Dr. Don Franco.
Kevin was also instrumental during the first U.S. outbreak of BSE (also known as “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 BSE that led to critical good manufacturing practices that are still in use today.
Before his recent retirement, Kevin worked with renderers as Rendering Business Manager at Kemin Nutrisurance. He continues to serve the rendering industry as a member of the FPRF Board of Directors and generously giving his time to industry members seeking his advice. 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. The Don Franco award was presented to Kevin Custer at NARA’s Annual Convention in October in Greensboro, Georgia.
About Dr. Don Franco
Dr. Don Franco, who passed away in 2015, was a highly respected and influential leader as NARA’s Vice President for Scientific Services and President of the Animal Protein Producers Industry (APPI) 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. Dr. Franco held a master’s degree in Public Health and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Today’s North American rendering industry benefits greatly from his work.