Beef - It’s not just what’s for dinner

By Clint Andersen

You’ve probably heard the joke that a vegetarian is just another way of saying “a bad hunter”.  Sadly, there are a lot of people in the world who think that being a vegetarian is a good thing.  There are lots of different varieties of vegetarians - some who eat eggs, some who drink milk, and some who use no animal products or by-products whatsoever (vegans).  I wonder how many of these vegans really understand the vast number of modern conveniences and neccesities that are made possible by beef by-products.

When a beef animal is harvested, about 65% of it is used as meat, but 99% of the animal is used.  Where does the other 34% go?  There are the easy things to think of such as leather for sporting goods and textiles, but beef by-products do so much more.  Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that are made possible by the 34% of a beef animal that we don’t eat.

Soap, lipstick, and face and hand creams are all made from fats.  Jello’s main ingredient is gelatin derived from connective tissue.  It’s also part of gum, gummy bears, marshmallows and ice cream.

By-products provide the base for ointments as well as binders in plaster and asphalt, plus it’s a key ingredient in household insulation.  For the artists, photographic paper is a beef by-product along with “camel hair” brushes that are actually made from cattle hair.

When it comes to medical products, Oklahoma State University summed it up best in their publication “Where’s the Beef?”: “No story of beef by-products is complete without telling about the medicines produced from cattle. More than 100 individual drugs perform such important and varied functions as helping to make childbirth safer, settling an upset stomach, preventing blood clots in the circulatory system, “pepping up” a sluggish thyroid, controlling anemia, relieving some symptoms of hay fever and asthma, and helping babies digest milk. Insulin is perhaps the best-known pharmaceutical derived from cattle. There are 5 million diabetics in the United States, and 1.25 million of them require insulin daily. It takes the pancreases from 26 cattle to provide enough insulin to keep one diabetic person alive for a year.”

But wait, there’s even more!  Explosives, car tires, buttons, piano keys, glues, fertilizers, wallpaper, sandpaper, combs, toothbrushes, and violin string are among the long list of things we get from beef by-products.

So as you celebrate National Beef Month, remember all of the things that come from beef that enrich our lives.  So wash your hands, put on some lipstick, comb your hair, brush your teeth, don’t forget to take your medication, and drive your car on an asphalt street to the local ice cream shop where you can enjoy gummy bear and marshmallow ice cream all while listening to a violin and piano duet while looking at some fabulous photos.  Happy Beef Month, everyone!

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