Some Information From the Minnesota Department of Health

This past Friday Tim Koch from the Minnesota Department of Health delivered a presentation about funeral service, specifically presenting current statistics in order to illuminate the changes the funeral industry is undergoing, namely cremation and alkaline hydrolysis.  It was very interesting information so I  want to present a little of it here:


  • 1997 regulation began
  • National cremation rate is
  • 23 out of 24 crematories were approved initially
  • Alkaline Hydrolysis added in 2003


  • 54 licensed crematories
  • 1 of the 54 is for alkaline hydrolysis (Rochester Mayo Clinic)
  • 53 crematories with 66 retorts


  • 2 crematories
  • 2 alkaline hydrolysis units

Crematory Volume

  • Low: 38
  • High: 2,168

Alkaline Hydrolysis

  • Also referred to as resomation, aquamation and bio-cremation
  • utilizes sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, water, temperature and pressure to dissolve remains into effluent material and mineral

    • process takes 3-6 hrs with a high temperature, high pressure unit; unit costs ~$500,000
    • process takes roughly 9 hrs with a low temperature, low pressure unit; unit costs ~$149,000

  • 2003 became a legally approved method in Minnesota
  • 2005 Rochester Mayo Clinic installed the very first unit


  • Cloquet denied
  • Stillwater approved to install a unit


  • Pathogen destruction (esp. prions)
  • no mercury emissions
  • requires 1/8 less energy than cremation


  • public perception
  • industry resistant
  • treatment of sewage discharge (?)
  • start-up costs

Misc. Issues


  • 2011

    • Casket Sales (regarding 3rd party sellers)
    • MFDA bill (regarding requiring crematories to have at least one funeral director on staff)

  • 2012

    • Disinterment of cremated remains
    • Sale of funeral goods (similar to casket sales bill)
    • Other expectations for upcoming legislation in 2012: formaldehyde & prep requirements

Imported Caskets

  • “made in” tags

    • FTC requires that these tags remain in/on the casket
  • Pre-purchased funeral goods

    • 149A.97 requires description of the item at the time of a pre-need sale
    • 149A.98 requires delivery of item purchased and described in pre-need sale unless no longer available

The issue: Some directors believe they have the right to substitute imported caskets for the American made caskets that were ordered in pre-need sales without the customer’s knowledge.


Time and time again, I have heard from many older directors that the funeral industry has changed more in these last three years than it has in the past 15 years.  So, this should be an interesting year in the funeral industry to say the least!


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Filed under Alkaline hydrolysis, Cremation, Public Health, Statistics

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