Sliver Steak: Amtrak's Beef-Powered Passenger Train Debuts

Amtrak train

Taking Amtrak's Heartland Flyer train between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City sometime in the next year? You will be hitching a ride on the first beef byproducts-powered biodiesel train. The train, which runs on 80% regular diesel and 20% beef-based biofuel from a Texas vendor, is running for the next 12 months courtesy of a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration. But is it morally suspect?

Amtrak says that the cow tallow (read: rendered fat from cattle) fuel reduces hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions by 10%, cuts down on particulates by 15%, and reduces sulfates by 20% compared to standard diesel. All good things, to be sure. And as long the cows for the Heartland Flyer's fuel would have been killed anyway, it's hard to argue with Amtrak.

Still, the idea of sitting in a train powered by animal fat gives us pause. Unsurprisingly, PETA isn't too keen on the idea. "The answer to pollution is not to use the ground up remains of tortured animals for fuel.  Anything using animal remains is going to be both depleting of and polluting of our environment," explained Bruce Friedrich, PETA's VP for Policy.

In any case, Amtrak has yet to decide if tallow-based biofuel will make it past the test stages. Over the next year, the company will gather information about the potential impact of the fuel on train valves and gaskets.

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2 Comments

  • Csaba Farkas

    If the tallow used is a waste product that would pollute the environment if not used for biodisel this is a very good thing. What do they do with excess beef fat now that McDonalds no longer uses it to fry potatoes? It is always a good thing to find uses for othervise useless waste.

  • Stephen Levine

    I see that you also have a fascination with the way the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad named their passenger cars, Silver something. Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated by the simple rule The Burlington used to name passenger cars: Silver followed by a word. They even set it up in later years so that classes of words designated particular car types, such as a 10 roomette 6 Double bedroom sleeper would be named after a type of geographical formation, e.g. Silver Ravine, Silver Creek, Silver Plateau, etc. 6 Double Bedroom 5 Compartment sleepers were named after birds, e.g. Silver Crane, Silver Quail, Silver Pelican. And diners and coffee shop cars were named after things related to food such as Silver Chef, Silver Feast, Silver Kettle. It made for a great intellectual exercise and I am sure the people responsible for naming cars had a lot of fun doing it.

    P.S. Silver Steak would probably be a name applied to a diner, if it had been used.