A computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model that simulates mechanical mixing for high-solids anaerobic digestion was developed. Numerical simulations of mixing manure slurry which exhibits non-Newtonian pseudo-plastic fluid behavior were performed for six designs: (i) one helical ribbon impeller; (ii) one anchor impeller; (iii) one curtain-type impeller; (iv) three counterflow (CF-2) impellers; (v) two modified high solidity (MHS 3/39°) impellers; and (vi) two pitched blade turbine impellers. The CFD model was validated against measurements for mixing a Herschel–Bulkley fluid by ribbon and anchor impellers. Based on mixing time with respect to mixing energy level, three impeller types (ribbon, CF-2, and MHS 3/39°) stand out when agitating highly viscous fluids, of these mixing with two MHS 3/39° impellers requires the lowest power input to homogenize the manure slurry. A comparison of digestion material demonstrates that the mixing energy varies with manure type and total solids concentration to obtain a given mixing time. Moreover, an in-depth discussion about the CFD strategy, the influences of flow regime and impeller type on mixing characteristics, and the intrinsic relation between mixing and flow field is included. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109:2116–2126. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.