Animals play diverse and pivotal roles in our lives, extending far beyond their primary functions as meat, milk, and eggs sources.
While these products are well-known, a multitude of valuable by-products from animals often go unnoticed. These by-products significantly enrich our lives and contribute to environmental sustainability, making use of items that might otherwise be discarded and turning them into resources that benefit society.
Cattle provide more than just the familiar beef cuts, including ribs, steaks, fillet mignon, and ground beef. The dairy sector is equally important, with dairy cows producing milk that forms the foundation for a wide array of dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream. When dairy animals can no longer produce milk, they often find a new purpose in meat production, primarily as ground beef. Veal, a delicacy in many countries, comes from male dairy calves. Cattle also yield by-products like tallow, a versatile fat used in wax paper, crayons, margarine, paints, rubber, lubricants, candles, soaps, lipsticks, shaving creams, and cosmetics.
Poultry, particularly broiler meat, is the most widely consumed meat in the United States. Chickens provide meat in a variety of forms, from BBQ and wings to nuggets, boneless options, and roasted or fried delicacies. Chickens also lay eggs, serving as an essential source of protein and baking ingredients. Turkeys, ducks, and geese are lesser-known members of the poultry family but contribute significantly to meat production. Turkeys are famously associated with Thanksgiving, and turkey-based products like bacon and sausage have become increasingly popular. Eggs from all these species are safe to eat and, while sometimes larger or differently coloured, are a nutritious source of protein. Feathers from ducks and geese also find purpose as stuffing in jackets and pillows.
Pigs, often referred to as swine, offer far more than the delectable pork products we love, such as bacon, sausages, and pork chops. These animals provide a wealth of valuable by-products. Swine-derived insulin is crucial for regulating diabetes, while pig valves are used in human heart surgeries, saving lives. Moreover, swine offer suede for shoes and clothing, and gelatin derived from pig bones, tendons, and ligaments is used in various food and non-food products, including shampoos, face masks, fruit gelatins, puddings, candies, and marshmallows. Swine by-products are versatile and essential components in the manufacturing of water filters, insulation, rubber, antifreeze, certain plastics, floor waxes, crayons, chalk, adhesives, and even fertilizers. Lard, the fat obtained from pig abdomens, plays a role in the production of shaving creams, soaps, makeup, baked goods, and other foods.
Goats are versatile animals that contribute to both the meat and dairy industries. Goat meat, considered a type of red meat, comes in various cuts and is a popular protein source in many developing countries. Goats also produce milk, which can be transformed into cheese, yogurt, soap, and baby formula. Some goat breeds, such as cashmere goats, provide soft cashmere wool, ideal for making sweaters, socks, and scarves. Other goat breeds, like Angora goats, produce wool with a different texture. All these wools can be used to craft clothing items.
Sheep are multi-faceted animals that produce a wide range of items for human use. Like cattle, they provide milk that can be consumed safely and processed into cheese, yogurt, and various other dairy products. Sheep offer meat in the form of lamb (from animals less than a year old) and mutton (from animals older than a year), predominantly consumed in Europe and the Middle East. Wool, one of the most recognized products from sheep, is the sheep’s hair that is shaved off during hot weather. After processing, wool can be transformed into a variety of products, such as shirts, socks, yarn for knitting, and tennis ball covers. Wool also serves as an effective oil absorbent in cleaning up oil spills. After slaughter, sheep skins are repurposed into leather used in car upholstery, clothing, and shoes. The bones, hooves, and horns of sheep are further used to create products such as gelatin, tape, brushes, and pet food ingredients.
Fish and Seafood
The vast expanses of the world’s oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams provide an abundance of nutritious foods. Fish serve as a valuable source of protein and essential nutrients. Fish eggs, known as caviar, are considered a delicacy. Fish oils, derived as by-products, are believed to have positive effects on mental health, cancer risk reduction, and heart health. Seafood encompasses various products, including shrimp, squid, mussels, clams, and crab.
Bees play a vital role in agriculture by pollinating plants, ensuring the growth of numerous crops. The value of honey bee pollination in U.S. agriculture exceeds $14 billion annually. Bees also produce honey, a versatile and natural sweetener used in a wide range of products, including hand lotions, soaps, natural cough suppressants, and as a source of energy. Beeswax, produced by bees, is used in making candles, lipstick, lotions, shoe polish, crayons, chewing gum, and floor wax.
Horses, commonly associated with being enjoyable animals to ride or for helping farmers herd livestock, have other uses worldwide. In Kazakhstan, horse milk is consumed and often fermented into a beverage called Kumis. Horse meat is also a source of nutrition in many countries worldwide.
Rabbits contribute both fur and meat. Angora rabbits, a specific breed, have long fur that is obtained by combing them. This fur can be transformed into yarn, socks, and other clothing items. Rabbits are also raised for their meat.
In conclusion, the contributions of animals to our lives extend far beyond meat, milk, and eggs. These often-overlooked by-products significantly enhance our lives and play a crucial role in reducing waste and promoting environmental sustainability. Maximizing the utilization of these resources ensures that we make the most of what animals provide while minimizing waste, which is a step towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable world.