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Thieves hit restaurants for used cooking grease

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It's a dirty job, and even thieves are doing it.

More than $1,500 worth of grease emptied from Rochester restaurants has been stolen over the past week, officials said today.

Midwest Grease, a business based in Redwood Falls, contracts with several area restaurants to buy the used grease disposed of after a day in the fryers. The oil is then sold to bio-diesel companies, which recycle it into diesel fuel, animal feed or jet fuel.

Midwest Grease told Rochester police that between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds of the oil had been taken.

Capt. John Sherwin said he'd heard of the thefts in other places, but this was the first time he's heard of the problem in Rochester.

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The commodity has become more popular, thanks to a growing demand for renewable diesel. Before, the grease was mainly used for lubricants and soap.

When soybean prices spiked because of the drought in 2012, demand for used cooking grease for biofuel production rose, according to a 2013 industry study by IBIS World. The research firm estimated that sales last year reached $1.3 billion, and it predicted annual growth of 1.7 percent through 2018.

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